Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UnRecipe: Be My Valentine, Truffle Butter

It's no big secret that truffle butter is magic. Serious Hogwarts stuff. Rich, fatty butter that's whipped with bits of rare, earthy truffles -- it's a m-effing sorcerer. And it makes all food better, especially the simplest, most humble dishes. It's like a Cinderella fairy godmother. That you can eat. I daresay it even improves one's mood during the darkest, most depressing days of winter. So bibbity-bobbity-truffle butter, let's get it on with how truffle buttah makes everything bettah, plus what better way to surprise your sweetheart for Valentine's Day with something extra-rich and homemade?

Pasta Carbonara alla Truffle Butter Badassery - Photo by Wasabi Prime
It's a common mistake to assume women are the consummate shoppers and subscribers to Retail Therapy. Someone needs to take that saying off bedazzled pink t-shirts and figure out a way to emblazon that mantra onto manly canvas bags or bacon-scented cologne because dudes like to shop as much as the ladies. The retail yield may not be the same -- no boxes of shoes and twenty versions of the same blouse in multiple colors, but there's definitely an economy being stimulated. The Mister has steadily been upgrading and building his beermaking gear over the last couple of months with much unusual and customized equipment. Granted, no beer has actually been made over this time, but the regular UPS/FedEx deliveries of odd sized boxes are sure to make the neighbors thing we're slowly building a WMD, one part at a time, in our garage. But I know when he's online browsing, he's not immune to the odd impulse purchase. And it's not a pack of gum or a candy bar he's buying, he's getting duck fat and truffle butter.

I knew I was with my soulmate when he said as an aside, "Just so you know, I bought a bunch of duck fat and truffle butter, so make sure you're home to sign for that." No real intention or grand plan, it just sounded good. And of course, he's right -- it does sound good. Freakin' majestic, even. I can credit Woot for this purchase, their daily deals are the most wonderfully weird mix of random stuff that you never knew you'd need, and they inevitably tempt you and your credit card in unexpected ways. And that's how we wound up with a chilled box of duck fat and truffle butter set upon our doorstep like some marvelous food stork delivery.

Take that impulse-buy-chewing-gum! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I hadn't made any plans with the duck fat (posts to come on, that, worry not), but I had my sights set on the truffle butter. It's one of those ingredients that sound so luxurious you feel silly to buy it, but when you have it, it's a constant source of inspiration because you can't stop thinking about what it can get added to. I wouldn't drown anything in truffle butter, it's like a finishing salt, something added towards the end of a dish's preparation for an added layer of complex flavor. It blesses food with that distinctive earthy umami that truffles have -- slightly pungent and made all the more rich by being whipped into butter. Smearing a little pat on a prepared steak or a piece of fish, letting it melt and the flavor meld with the already cooked meat, or in my most recent makings: pasta.

Simple, simple, simple. That was how I wanted to test drive the truffle butter. Pasta is a neutral vehicle to carry its flavors, so I did a couple of quick pantry pasta dishes that were finished with a pat of this wizard-like butter. I made a basic bechamel and added the butter in the final stage of tossing the already-cooked noodles with the creamy sauce. A few shavings of Parmesan and it was thoroughly enjoyed on a cold midweek night. But pale as an albino -- if I had fresh parsley it would have perked it up for a photo-op. Maybe a chiffonade of fresh basil and a sprinkle of freshly toasted pine nuts. Meh -- mental notes for another time. The best use for the truffle butter so far, both in flavor and looks department was the classic pasta carbonara. A light, buttery rich sauce thickened with egg and flavored with pepper and garlic, the savoriness of bacon or some kind of pan-crisped fatty meat -- it holds up nicely with the truffle's distinctive unctuous quality. In this case, I had extra charcuterie of all sorts, so I fried those odds and ends up until crisp, set them aside and toasted some garlic and red pepper flakes in the oil before whipping up the quick pan sauce that lightly coats the noodles. Truffle butter goodness was added last, right as the cooked pasta was added. I like sprinkling the crispy meat over the top as a garnish, and reserving the egg yolk to top it. It makes for a very pretty presentation, that lovely golden yolk and browned meat crisps over a pile of lightly sauced pasta. Happy Valentine's Day to me.

Truffle butter makes you actually welcome cold, miserable days like this - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The real magic behind truffle butter's sorcery is that it lessens the effects of the insufferable Seasonal Affective Disorder that hangs over our heads once fall kicks in and the sun Peaces-Out for the next five months. The fall leaves were beautiful, but there were days where the rain was so heavy and hard, you could barely see out your window -- and it tore that autumnal beauty to shreds. I saw skies that made me pretty sure the Deatheaters from Harry Potter were about to attack, they were so scary-dark and ominous. Dishes that are rich and comforting -- with just a touch of luxury -- make for a wonderful shelter from the winter storm. You almost look forward to the worst of the gloomy days, as it justifies your desire to bust out the truffle butter and flip Old Man Winter the bird. Count that as another plus in favor of having something as luxe as truffle butter being a staple in your refrigerator, and an easy indulgence to make every day (even Valentine's Day) a special one.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)