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A celebration of the culinary Mediterranean southwest

Passport & Plate - Canapés aux truffes

France | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 6 photos

Ingredients
A fresh baguette, sliced into disks
A black truffle, sliced thinly
Good quality sweet butter
Sea salt
Brut champagne

 

How to prepare this recipe
Butter the bread and layer on the truffle slices. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Enjoy with friends and a glass of dry champagne.

 

The story behind this recipe
When I first came to southwestern France, an elderly woman I sat next to in a café in the town of Sarlat, where we were practicing the old troubadour language of southern France, Occitan, told me how in December she would gather black truffles in a forest near her farm and take them to market, hoping for a good month so that her family could afford the festive foods of Christmas. She then leaned in and whispered, “If you are saving your Euros for a truffle, save them for truffles in late January or February. That’s when the truffle season peaks.”

I heeded her advice. I also learned that January and February are the months when it is easiest to find the truffles, even if you don’t have a dog or a pig to help.

A friend from Sarlat, who is a truffle expert with his own truffière—truffle trees—taught me. He explained that there are telltale signs. One is of little flies that aggregate about the ripe truffle. If you see a delirious buzz about the ground around one of the trees that are symbiotic with the black truffle, such as oak, beech, or hazel, you are in the vicinity of a culinary gold mine.
But another sign, one that is sure even if the flies have not yet arrived, is a slight ground swell that wasn’t there before. A true truffle hunter will know every contour of his territory, and notice subtle changes to it.

Once you’ve located a ground swell, you lean in and the next sign should be a pricking in the nostrils of that unmistakable and strangely earthy and otherworldly scent of that arouses all manner of romantic images.

Locals have offered me their favorite applications: grated into scrambled eggs or sliced thinly and placed on top of foie gras toasts.

After serious experimentation, I can now say that my favorite recipe comes from that same lady in the café. This is the recipe her family enjoyed in flush years for New Year’s Eve. It is the simplest and most sublime of recipes because nature has done all the cooking.


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