Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Recipes: Tajarin (Fresh Egg Yolk Tagliarini), Tajarin with White Truffles, Olive Oil, and Parmesan, & Tajarin with Sage Butter

Oregon White Truffle slicesThinly sliced Oregon white truffles

I'm celebrating my 100th article on Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska with white truffles, a food worthy of any special occasion.

The first time I had white truffles was in La Morra, a small town in the heart of Piemonte’s Barolo wine country. Their flavor was seductively good, amazingly good, good like nothing I’d savored before.

Ever since, I’ve had white truffles as often as possible; in other words, rarely. Fresh white truffles are few and far between.

We arrived at an agriturismo on the outskirts of La Morra on a sunny fall afternoon. To check into
Agriturismo Il Gelso, we sat at an outdoor stone table with then owner, Egidio Oberto. He welcomed us with glasses of excellent wine he’d made on-site. Basking in the autumn sun, our tired shoulders relaxed; the day of travelling already forgotten.

The wine whetted our appetites. Despite the early hour, we drove into La Morra looking for the Belvedere, a restaurant my father highly recommended. We parked, intending to roam the streets until we saw a Belvedere sign. When we got out of the car, we noticed the restaurant was directly across the street. That was a very good omen.

We opened the restaurant's door and discovered it was more formal than we’d thought. Despite the white tablecloths and old-world atmosphere, the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming. No reservation? Not a problem. Casually dressed? Come right in. We were comforably seated at a window table with a vineyard view.

The menu that evening featured white truffles (
Tuber magnatum) and porcini (Boletus edulis), two local delicacies that had just come into season. We ordered one or the other or both for every course.

One of my favorite dishes was tajarin tossed in butter and parmesan, over which our waitress showered a flurry of white truffle shavings. Tajarin is a thinly cut fresh pasta unique to Piemonte and made with large amounts of egg yolks.

By the end of the evening, we were intoxicated with white truffles. I remember vividly how happy we were on leaving the Belvedere for a post-dinner stroll around La Morra.

I also remember the truffles’ better-than-expected flavor. I doubt it's possible to eat my fill of fresh Piemontese white truffles, but we spent the rest of our time in the environs of La Morra trying.

Recently, we arrived at our friends' house for dinner and were excited to find Bill making risotto with Oregon white truffles. Cindy brought the truffles home from a trip to Portland.

I’d read about
Oregon white truffles, but this was the first time I’d tried them. They were smaller and much milder than their Italian cousins, but tasted distinctively and unmistakably of truffles. The risotto was a treat.

After dinner, as we bundled up to leave, Cindy generously gave us a handful of pungent Oregon truffles, carefully packed in dry Arborio rice. I lay in bed that night happily thinking about truffles.

Truffles, like mushrooms, are the annual fruit of underground fungi. The perennial part of truffles and mushrooms exists as a web of thread-like filaments in the soil called a mycelium.

In France and Italy, truffles have long been a gourmet treat. It’s only in recent years that commercial harvesters discovered
two varieties of white truffles (Tuber oregonense and Tuber gibbosum) growing in the Douglas fir forests that run up the Pacific coast from Northern California to British Columbia.

We learned at La Morra’s Belvedere that the heady, earthy taste of truffles shines when paired with simple pasta, rice, or egg dishes. Because their flavor dissipates under heat, truffles shouldn’t be cooked. They are best when shaved over food at the time of serving.

I decided to pair the Oregon truffles with tajarin, the Piemontese pasta we ate in La Morra. Luckily, there was a new carton of organic eggs in the refrigerator, so I could make the egg-rich dough.

While making dinner, I thought about the best way to cut the truffles thin enough to release their maximum flavor. I'd settled on a mandoline when I suddenly remembered we owned a
truffle shaver, unused since we’d received it for Christmas several years ago.

Truffles and Truffle ShaverI laughed at myself for owning a truffle shaver, but it was the precise tool needed. The truffle shaver worked perfectly on its inaugural appearance; I hope to put it to good use many times in the future.

Or so I’m dreaming.

NOTE: The Belvedere closed this year. Its owners, the Bovio family, will soon open a new restaurant just outside La Morra called
Bovio Ristorante.

Tajarin, Piemontese Pasta
Tajarin (Fresh Egg Yolk Tagliarini)
Makes enough pasta for 4 servings
Tajarin made with a food processor and pasta machine is quite easy. If you use farm fresh eggs, with their deep yellow yolks, the tajarin will have better flavor and more pronounced color. Use the extra egg whites to make Pistachio Biscotti.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 whole eggs
6 egg yolks

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Process until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the dough starts forming clumps. Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 1 minute, adding a small amount of flour if the dough is sticky. When you’re done, the dough should be smooth and firm. Divide the dough into three portions, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for one hour. (Dough can be made ahead to this point.)

Run each portion of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine, starting with the thickest setting. Lightly dust the pasta dough with flour so it runs smoothly through the rollers. Fold the dough in thirds as if folding a letter, turn it 45 degrees, and again run it through the thickest setting. Repeat the folding, turning, and rolling at least three more times, or until the dough is smooth and shiny.

Set the pasta machine at the next thinnest setting. Run the sheet of pasta through, dusting with flour as necessary. Continue reducing the setting of the pasta machine and running the pasta through until you reach the machine’s second lowest setting. When the sheets of pasta become too long to comfortably handle, cut them into manageable lengths. When each sheet is done, lay it out to rest on a floured surface for 30 minutes.

Using the small (2mm) cutter on the pasta machine, cut the pasta into long lengths. Lay out the cut pasta on a floured cloth, or shape it into loose nests. Let dry for 30 – 60 minutes.

The tajarin is now ready to use.

Tajarin and TrufflesTajarin with White Truffles, Olive Oil, and Parmesan
Serves 4
If you don’t have access to fresh truffles, use white truffle oil instead. Be careful not to overdo; a little truffle oil goes a long ways.

1 recipe Tajarin (see above)
2 Tbsp. coarse salt

2 – 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly shaved white truffles or white truffle oil

Fill a large pot with water, bring it to a boil, add the salt, and stir in the pasta. Cook for 1 minute. Drain.

Return the pasta to the pan, toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and 2 Tbsp. parmesan. If the pasta is too dry, add the remaining olive oil. Divide the pasta between four serving plates; top each plate with 1 Tbsp. parmesan. Shave truffles over the pasta (or drizzle with a small amount of truffle oil) and serve immediately.

Tajarin with Sage Butter
Serves 4
To perfect the tajarin recipe, I had to make it several times. This is the simplest and most recent version. Be sure to use good butter and fresh sage leaves; in a dish with so few ingredients, their quality matters.

1 recipe Tajarin (see above)
2 Tbsp. coarse salt

4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced sage
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Melt the butter over low heat, stir in the sage, and season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Fill a large pot with water, bring it to a boil, add the salt, and stir in the pasta. Cook for 1 minute. Drain.

Return the pasta to the pan, toss with the sage butter and 2 Tbsp. parmesan. Divide the pasta between four serving plates; top each plate with 1 Tbsp. parmesan. Serve immediately.

Thie is my entry for the Second Annual Pullet Surprise: Eggs hosted by Peanut Butter Etoufee.


sher said...

Oh my goodness! What a wonderful blog you have created! That dish looks so amazing. And now I know what to do with all those egg yolks in my fridge. Wait! Are you related to the fabulous chef Adam, who used to cook on Northern Exposure? He was a genius with food too. :):)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Laurie as always and very informative. That pasta with the truffles looks so luxurious.

Peter M said...

Congrats Laurie...time flies and you're in blogging cruise-control.

A pasta of simply truffles and and little else is so decadent but you only live once.

I'm also eager to try Greece's new-found truffles. They go mostly to export but I'm sure I'll find some from Grevena.

Riana Lagarde said...

happy 100th! i had a memorable meal exactly like this on my first trip to Italy in Purugia. We sang merrily through the streets after dinner with truffle breath!

thank you for your wonderful insightful recipes!

Suganya said...

First time seeing a truffle up close. Congrats on the 100 mark, Laurie. I love reading your posts.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, fresh pasta, truffles, and gorgeous mushroom stews . . . all my favorites. Can't wait to sample those truffles for myself. Congratulations on reaching this milestone!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Looks delicious and what a happy coincidence that you have a truffle shaver! I've never gotten my hands on truffles yet in my kitchen...one of these days... and happy 100!

Lisa Turner said...

I'm looking forward to your next 100 posts! You certainly picked a fitting dish to celebrate with. Stunning!

Unknown said...

Happy 100th! What an awesome way to celebrate your 100th! I am in love the white truffle flavor. Ohhh, where did you get the truffle? Yummm. And your pasta looks divine!

test it comm said...

Congratulations on 100 delicious posts!

I have never had a truffle though they sound interesting. I have been keeping an eye out for them so that I can try them but no luck yet.

Nina Timm said...

This does not only inspire me to cook, but also to travel. Your pasta looks perfect!!!

Maria Verivaki said...

now there's a 'new' food I'd like to try, and Peter's right - truffles on a bed of pasta looks so decadent!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...


Thistlemoon said...

Happy 100th! :)
So glad to have your blog in the blogosphere!

I have never had white truffles - only the infused oil, sadly. But it is on my "must try" list of foods. I realy enjoy the taste of the infused oils and can't imagine how divine they must taste on their own!

Your stories are great!

Laurie Constantino said...

Sher, thank you so much for the kind words about my blog! If you need to know about egg yolks, perhaps I'd better check your blog to figure out what to do with all the egg whites I have. I don't know chef Adam, but if he is a genius with food, I sure wish I did.

Peter G., yes, luxurious is exactly the right word. Unlike most of my life!

Peter M., it's hard to believe I only started doing this less than 6 months ago. Mmm - Greek tuffles. But I assume they won't be in season until at least October so maybe you'll need to extend your vacation!

Riana, glad to hear I'm not the only person who has enjoyed truffle intoxication!

Suganya, the truffle slices remind me of cross-sections of little brains - they have very interesting patterns.

Manju, next year when you're living in the PNW, you should be able to easily find these (at least in the stores...).

Mike, definitely a happy coincidence. Hope you can find some truffles next season. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Lisa, thanks!

Lannae, any excuse for a good time!

Kevin, thank you. You should start keeping your eye out next October or November.

That's great Nina! (Although I suspect you probably don't need a huge amount of inspiration to travel!)

Maria, that's me, decadent as they come.

Forkful, ME TOO!

Jenn, thank you, you are very sweet. Fresh truffles have much better flavor than the oils. I think you and Roberto better plan a trip to Italy around November or so when the truffles are in season!

Joanne said...

I've never tasted truffles but I am very eager to do so. I just need to find a place in the city where I can buy a tiny little niblet of a truffle. I hear they can be quite costly.

Anonymous said...

This looks delicious. I've only had truffles a few times in restaurants, but...oh, boy! I'd have to mail order for fresh truffles, so, can you advise as to how good a substitute truffle oil is? Should I wait until I can find the real thing?

I love gardening and foraging, so I especially enjoy your botanical information. In fact, I've been meaning to get back to your fava post to write down the species name you mentioned. Going to do that right now...

Laurie Constantino said...

Bijoux, truffles are indeed ridiculously expensive, which is why Cindy was so generous to give me some of hers. I hope you run into some soon.

Lulu, you are asking a very difficult question. Although "truffle oil" has a flavor similar to truffles, pretty much all truffle oils are artifically flavored. Here's an article explaining: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/dining/16truf.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=dining&pagewanted=all

On the other hand, truffle oil when used sparingly adds wonderful flavor to pastas, rice, and potatoes. Sparingly is important; too much truffle oil tastes awful. Because I am not wealthy, and most times can't afford to eat truffles even when they are in season, I do use and enjoy truffle oil in its own right.

So if you think of a substitute as something that on its own tastes great, then yes, truffle oil is a good substitute. On the other hand, if you want something that tastes the same as fresh truffles, you don't get that from truffle oil.