Recipes

Oregon Black Truffles

Mushrooms are one of the only vegetables capable of sparking golden desires. They’re the meat of the vegetable world. (That’s why vegetarians are always eating Portobello burgers.) Truffles, a mushroom with a chocolate named after it, is the smoldering core of this hunger. If gold was a mushroom it would be a truffle and if chocolate was gold, it would also be a truffle (or something).

I wanted to actually taste this legendary fungus. I also wanted to see what they looked like and if all the hype was worth the money. Plus, Oregon Black Truffles are fresh and local in January. I procured my Oregon Black Truffles from local mushroom pusher Chris at Sweet Valley Organics. They were very fresh, high quality and a good price – plus delivery. Truffles should be dry and firm. If they are moist and squishy don’t buy them. Store them wrapped in a paper towel, in an air tight container, in the refrigerator.

White truffles are a bit different and much more pungent than black truffles, thus are treated differently in the kitchen. White truffles are eaten raw and black truffles are best cooked. Truffle oil and truffle salts are made from white truffles and are best from Europe (So I am told).

Legend has it that the truffles from southern Oregon and northern California don’t come close to rivaling the European variety. According to Chris, it’s taken the American mushroom hunters a while to figure out the best season to pick them and for awhile they weren’t very good. My 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking calls them “so-called summer truffles.” The Oregon Black Truffles I got were found on a Christmas tree farm under the trees, picked in the dead of winter. Now we know when to pick them, let’s learn to cook them.

I really liked the Oregon Black Truffle. They should not be treated like European truffles where they are grated and dusted on food like salt or cheese. These truffles need to be cooked to bring out their flavor. Owen, Lulu’s Pizza chef, made a truffle burger with caramelized onions and black truffles, and sharp cheddar. We also put them on a pizza with a very thin crust, extra virgin olive oil and mozzarella.  I made three dishes: 1. Venison with truffle risotto and steamed spinach. 2. Truffle scramble (started out tortilla de patata) and 3. Black truffle miso.

I will cook with them again. Next time; black truffles and toasted Magic Valley barley or black truffles and north Idaho wild rice.

Cut them in thin rounds and use as liberally as garlic. Why not? I made 3 meals with $25 worth. They had a deep fungus of the earth taste (the beef tongue of mushrooms), but nothing that inspired lust. I don’t think there will be an Oregon Mushroom Rush any time soon. But if it were the post-apocalypse and the Tuber aestivum was the only fungi a hunter could rustle up in the dead of winter it would be a delicacy and worth much more than gold.

–Farmer Marty

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