One chef, one ingredient: black truffles by Michel Rostang
This week, Michel Rostang, whose eponymous restaurant in Paris boasts two Michelin stars, is particularly fond of cooking with one of the culinary world's most luxurious and rare ingredients: black truffles.
What led you to choose this ingredient?
Michel Rostang: I love black truffles. This is a mysterious mushroom, black and only available during four months of the year -- in winter. Working with fresh truffles means rediscovering, each year, the delight of its powerful and rare aroma. Above all else, this is a mushroom that is ideal for cooking, from starters to desserts.
What is your best kitchen memory associated with this ingredient?
MR: Each winter, I make the trip to Richerenches for its famous truffle market to buy fresh truffles. As soon as we step out of the car, we are met with the powerful yet delicate aroma that overcomes our senses and makes our mouths water. I am fond of this market, which remains very "natural," and where several people come with a basket to buy just a few grams of truffle.
When is this ingredient in season?
MR: Black truffles can be enjoyed [fresh] only from December to March.
What is the best way to prepare it? Can you share a recipe?
MR: For several years now, in my restaurant, we offer a simple sandwich: bread, butter and fresh black truffle. This is the purest and most delicious way to enjoy truffle. The sandwich is permeated with the aroma, which it gives off after being toasted under a salamander grill to bring out all of the flavors. It's even better when eaten with your hands!
Take 2 thick slices of country bread, salted butter and 30g of fresh black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum). Slice the truffle into thick rounds. Spread the slices of bread generously with salted butter, then spread the truffle slices 2 to 3mm thick over the bread and close the sandwich. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for at least two days, enough time for the aromas of the truffle to permeate the bread and the butter. Then, remove the plastic wrap, place the sandwich on a baking tray and brown both sides under a salamander (or in an oven on the grill setting). The sandwich should golden on both sides, and the butter should have melted through the bread. Next, cut the sandwich into large slices to eat it at room temperature with your fingers.
What other ingredients can be combined with truffles to delight and surprise the taste buds?
MR: A truffle should lend its flavor other ingredients. Anything that can take on its powerful taste is recommended in combination with them. This could be potatoes, pasta, artichokes, or eggs, for instance.
What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?
MR: One must not overcook truffles! They should be heated with the accompanying ingredients, but never cooked. My advice is to add truffles at the very end of cooking.
How else do you offer this ingredient on your current menu?
MR: In my restaurant, we offer a total of 10 dishes with truffles when they are in season. We serve them, for example, in a warm fingerling potato salad, in a purple artichoke soup, or in taglierini pasta, with a pan-seared slice of duck foie gras.
What wine (or other alcohol) is best married with this ingredient?
MR: In my opinion, the best complement to truffles is white wine from the Burgundy region, preferably a Chardonnay. I recommend a slightly aged wine, such as a Roulot Meursault.