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6th Annual Truffle Dinner – Part 1

2009/12/15

As I wrote about in my previous post, truffle season is here a couple weekends ago I set out a relatively ambitious menu complete with wine pairings.  Aside from a couple minor things I was less than 100% satisfied with, the meal was fantastic and everyone had an outstanding time. The truffles, in a word, were sublime! Probably the best truffles I’ve had in the past three or four years at least. Phrases like, “it’s raining truffles!” and “is it possible to have TOO MUCH truffle on a dish?” (it’s not) were tossed around a couple times.

We started with smoked trout brandade on crostini while sipping Champagne and later a White Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Unfortunately there isn’t a decent picture of the hors d’oeurves, but the brandade was prepared by combining smoked trout, shallots, prepared horseradish, heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. The texture should be such that the brandade is easily spreadable, much like rillettes would. The brandade was spread across crostini and topped with a few sprigs of chervil.

I’ve written about the 1999 Charles Ellner Brut Prestige Champagne before and it was once again a great match for the food. While this bottle was a little more restrained from the previous one, the quality was still there. The 2006 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Vieilles Vignes (100% Roussanne) was stellar as usual, drinking well with both the crostini and on its own.

  • 1999 Charles Ellner Champagne Brut Prestige – France, Champagne (12/5/2009)This bottle wasn’t quite as expressive as the previous and I attribute that to the fact that it didn’t see nearly as much air. Opened about a half hour before serving and left to warm up, it showed a similarly rich nose of brioche, pear, vanilla, and apple, but on the palate the wine was a little more restrained. Baked apples pear, and brioche through to a 35-40s. The last glasses were the best which leads me to believe this wine needs additional cellaring or should be opened several hours in advance of serving. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Cuvée Roussanne Vieilles Vignes – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (12/5/2009)Medium-gold colour. Beautiful nose of tropical fruit – papaya, mango, passionfruit, cream. Full-bodied and unctuous, but seems like it’s a little restrained in comparison to a previous bottle. Tropical fruit, lanolin/wax notes on the palate. Solid finish, ~45+s with salted caramel and tropical fruit notes. I wonder if this wine is starting to go into a slumber and how it will emerge on the other side? Regardless, still gorgeous stuff. (95 pts.)

While the Beaucastel was being finished, it was time to start preparing risotto. Mis en place was roasted duck confit pulled off the bone and diced, minced shallots, whole garlic clove, red wine, chicken stock, porcini “stock,” freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, diced unsalted butter, and of course lots of truffles! If you read last week’s post, you’ll also recall that the truffles were packed in the carnaroli that was to be used for the risotto to infuse more truffle aroma.

I shaved some of the truffle then minced to go directly into the risotto while the rest was shaved on top after plating. Look at how amazing they are!

Tartufo Nero di Norcia - Fresh Black Truffles

Tartufo Nero di Norcia - Fresh Black Truffles

Tartufo Nero di Norcia - Fresh Black Truffles

Tartufo Nero di Norcia - Fresh Black Truffles

The technique I use to prepare risotto is pretty standard. I use carnaroli rice instead of arborio as it results in a very creamy risotto while retaining the grain structure. To get the same level of creaminess with arborio you effectively need to overcook the rice, turning it to mush. In addition, for earthy risottos such as this, I like to use some porcini “stock.” I soak a handful of dried porcini in hot water to rehydrate, squeeze out any liquid, then strain the broth through a double layer of unbleached coffee filters to remove any sand or grit. The spent mushrooms can be discarded.

The chicken stock was brought to just below a simmer on the back burner while in a separate pot, unsalted butter and olive oil were warmed over medium-low heat. I added the shallots to soften, halfway through also adding the whole clove of garlic. I prefer to use a whole clove so it’s easier to pick out. I wanted some of the aroma and flavour but didn’t want to eat the garlic itself. The carnaroli was next, stirred frequently to toast the rice and lightly coat the rice with butter and oil.

At this point, basically all that was required was adding liquid followed by constant stirring. First, red wine, stirring until I could clearly see the majority of the liquid was absorbed. This was repeated by the porcini “stock,” then finally continued one ladleful of chicken stock at a time until the rice was just done. The rice was seasoned several times through the cooking process – mostly salt, very little pepper was required. Pepper was added at the end. Because the stocks that I use are completely without salt, I added more salt than would be required with a boxed stock. Watch the sodium content in boxed stocks! Low sodium doesn’t mean much!

To finish the risotto, the diced duck confit, Parmigiano-Reggiano, minced truffles, and cold unsalted butter were beaten into the rice. A quick seasoning check, an additional ladleful of stock and it was ready to be served! Who needs to go to the gym when you can stir a pot of rice constantly for a half hour? I used very large bowls that were warmed and shaved a very healthy amount of truffles on top of each portion. The result? Probably one of the best (or the best so far as one friend said) risottos I’ve ever made. Considering my risotto is consistently excellent, that’s saying something!

Duck confit and fresh black truffle risotto

Duck confit and fresh black truffle risotto

The flavours were perfectly balanced. You could taste everything – the duck, the truffles, and that hint of umami the porcini stock added. So earthy and amazing! Eating a dish like this with the intense, pungent addition of fresh truffles is the reason why I consider it a seasonal treat. There is no possible way summer or jarred truffles can evoke the same presence or emotion.

A set of Brunello di Montalcino was a fantastic pairing with the risotto. Even though I scored them the same, I give the edge to the 1990 Fuligni because of the fact that it was the epitome of a gorgeous, mature Sangiovese. Not to mention that Fuligni is one of my favourite producers in Montalcino. The most simple way to explain the wine’s profile is that it was Fall in a glass.

The 1997 Tenuta di Sesta Riserva was also excellent. Still climbing the maturation curve, the wine more than held its own against the Fuligni. It has a long life ahead of it, even if the wine is approachable now.

  • 1990 E. Fuligni (Cottimelli) Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino (12/5/2009)Not decanted, poured into shoulder and allowed to breathe for 4 hours and paired with duck confit and fresh black truffle risotto. Medium-dark ruby colour. Just a hint of bricking at the rim. Sottobosco, wet leaves/earth, and just a hint of truffle on the nose joined by hints of herbs, leather, dried violets. Medium-full bodied, showing excellent grip, acidity, and balance. Black plums, blackberry, dried strawberry, and sottobosco notes on the palate. Long finish, ~40-45s with more sottobosco and dark fruit with time.I’m very happy to know that this performed like my first bottle (fantastic) and not like my second (not so much). I hope my last one shows as well as this because the 1990 Fuligni is dynamite stuff. It’s a situation where bottle-to-bottle differences will start to show and I would say the wine is at peak for the most part and no harm in drinking (or holding if desired). (93 pts.)
  • 1997 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino (12/5/2009)Not decanted. Poured into shoulder and allowed to slow-ox for two hours. Paired with duck confit and fresh black truffle risotto. Dark ruby/garnet colour; almost opaque. Pretty, expressive nose that is still quite secondary. Frutti di bosco, spice, earth aromas follow through to the full-bodied palate. Integrated but present tannins and good acidity suggest a significant life ahead of this wine. Moderate-long finish, ~35-40s. It was a nice contrast to the 1990 Fuligni that was served alongside it. While approachable, this wine is still improving and will likely gain in complexity as it matures and evolves from a secondary to tertiary state. Very nice, and I could see this adding another point in the coming years. Delicious! Drink now-2018. (93 pts.)

More to come! The second half of the menu – main course and dessert – will be in my next post.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. erika permalink
    2009/12/15 6:27 PM

    Nice! I’ve never made risotto with red wine, always with white; I’m curious. And I would like the brandade recipe!

    • futronic permalink*
      2009/12/16 8:20 PM

      I tend to use red wine for richer, earthier risotto preparations, whereas I find white wine works better with lighter, vegetable or seafood-based risottos.

      I’ll email you the brandade recipe when I get a chance!

      • 2010/01/10 5:24 PM

        Where do you get your truffles?

      • futronic permalink*
        2010/01/10 5:43 PM

        I get them from the Cheese Boutique on Ripley Ave.

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  1. 6th Annual Truffle Dinner – Part 2 « Cellar and Table
  2. 6th Annual Truffle Dinner – Part 3 « Cellar and Table

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