Truffled Butter: A Prince Among Ideas

I don’t think I’m the most creative person in the world, but I do have lots of ideas. Most of them are very mediocre and often focused narrowly on how I can explain being late for work again, or why I didn’t call my sister, but very occasionally I’ll have a good idea. Marrying my wife was about the best of these handful of good ideas so far, but other gems include putting a roll of toilet paper in the refrigerator before heading out for some pints and an Indian meal, and smuggling various hard-to-find and expensive European comestibles into the United States after vacations.

Nocino and other Italian Things

Last year, among the many beautiful and delicious places we visited was the affluent and storied Piedmontese town of Alba. The countryside surrounding Alba is literally bursting with good things – Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Dolcetto wines, thermal and freshwater springs, and multifarious game, but the town’s most famous product, and rightly so, is the white truffle. Though we only stopped in to Alba for an all-too-brief visit, we wanted to make the most of our time there. So, after a gentle stroll around admiring the architecture, we quickly got down to brass tacks. We scoured the town for its famous food & beverage products, and either ate or drank them on the spot or purchased some to consume later, or both. In one store we bought bottles of the four principal varieties of local wines, and in another we bought a small jar of strawberry-sized black truffles, a 100ml vial of truffle oil (complete with small lump of white truffle), a 50ml squeezy-tube of white truffle puree, and another small jar of white truffle mousse. It was a targeted strike of almost military precision and I am very proud that we were so single-minded about it, especially after a bottle of wine and a large lunch. Indeed, now that we’re back in the US, where Albanese products are not only scarce but terrifyingy-priced, I am even more delighted with the foresight and commitment we demonstrated that day.

Of all the good ideas out there, two of the best (at least in my opinion) are: the thought that whatever the soil-coated, lumpy tumescence was that a pig was urgently digging up at the base of an oak tree was worth further investigation; and the thought of using said ugly growth to flavor butter. I should add that neither of those ideas were mine, yet I support them both vigorously. It is clear to me now that while pigs are not always particularly discerning in their choice of foodstuff – and I do not take many of my dietary decisions based on their proclivities – they make an extraordinarily good choice when they choose to root for truffles. And, if you’ve never eaten a truffle before, I am hereby going on the record and saying that they are as good as people say they are, probably better. They are one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth and I enjoy them more each time I have them. Potentially, they are the basis for a lasting and bankrupting addiction.

However, we weren’t able to come away from Alba with quite the volume of truffles and truffle-products that I would have liked, and sadly, I doubt that we’ll manage to make them last until we’re able to visit the town again. But instead of dwelling on this maudlin fact, we decided to make the most of what we had brought back with us and recently treated ourselves to a slap-up steak dinner that celebrated our Albanese truffles appropriately. We prepared a black & white truffle compound butter to go with our (perfectly-cooked) steak, and the result was possibly the richest and most decadent thing I could have imagined (see recipe below).

If you come across some reasonably-priced truffles anywhere, buy them. If you find any truffles anywhere, in fact, buy them, even if it requires some complex re-financing of other property. You will not regret it. If you can’t find truffles, or have nothing of worth to mortgage, you can make compound butters out of all kinds of things. Previously, we’ve made one with garlic and tarragon, and it was pretty darn delicious, and apparently, crushed walnuts and a dash of walnut oil are also very acceptable. I would suggest you make at least one kind of compound butter very soon to top your favorite cut of steak. It’s exceedingly good.

Black Truffle Butter

Black & White Truffle Compound Butter

1 stick unsalted, softened butter
1 small black truffle, chopped or shaved finely
1 tbsp white truffle paste
pinch of black pepper

Allow butter to soften out of fridge until very pliable. Unwrap it and put it in a mixing bowl. Add the truffles. Get your favorite wooden spoon and cream butter and truffles together until thoroughly combined. Take a spatula and scoop butter into a piece of plastic wrap leaving at least an inch of room at the ends. Roll-up butter in wrap and twist at ends to tighten wrap around butter. You should have something that resembles a short, wide sausage. Place compound butter wrap in freezer for 25 minutes before using it to allow it to set up. Slicing it onto your steak is also easier if butter is almost frozen. [If you’re not intending to eat the butter immediately, you can just place it in the fridge.] Slice rounds of truffled butter onto your warm steak or potatoes and enjoy!

23 thoughts on “Truffled Butter: A Prince Among Ideas

  1. If, I repeat IF I’m reincarnated, I want to comeback as a truffle pig…OINK! I’d be fed well, no worries of slaughter (as long as I find truffles) and I’d be having lots of sows at my feet..a pig stud!

    Steak with truffled butter….sinful!

  2. I just read what my lovely husband wrote… i think his shining moment was marrying me too. oh, wait, what about moving to another country for me? That was the shining moment. but enough with the cheese…

    I love our readers… really do. no one takes anything too seriously. truffles are serious bin-ness, but, fuck it… why can’t we grow them… sucks. I agree with all of you. emiline, we do suck. we suck big time. but we’re almost out of all the italian deliciousness we smuggled home last summer, so i’m depressed. you’re the biznatch -you get to go morel hunting! YOU SUCK!

    peter – i’ll be oinking right next to you. want to play in the mud? avoid getting slaughtered? go find the beer sludge from the local pub to drink? we’ll have a blast.
    rita – what were you smoking when you wrote that comment? you dirty, dirty, DIRTY GIRL! love it…

    HOLLA! gotta go…thanks for the comments!!

  3. You are all insane!!!!! What a bunch of comments! I had a good laugh here! 😀
    There’s all this mess about truffle and I think that cooks have lost their nord (this is an expression here) They use just too much truffle on everything and that, from my palate-point of view spoils the Thing! I like to find a little bit of that fantastic flavour but not dig in the truffles to find one grain of rice in the bottom!

    Anyway, I think that the idea of mixing it with the butter is not bad at all… here we have all these truffles oils, why not truffle butter?

  4. You know what, Margaret… we usually don’t either – they’re hard to find and too damn expensive. But, if you go to Italy, please, please give a meal with truffles involved a try. Only if you like mushrooms. if you HATE mushrooms, you’ll prob. hate truffles.

  5. It sounds like you got a lot of interesting goodies! I have been wanting to try truffles for a while. I guess I will just have to look harder, or plan a trip to another country!

  6. Did you say Alba? Barbaresco? We took took out a closet to make room for some of our bottles of Barbaresco babies!!
    Lucky you for visiting that region, we wanna go too!!! We’ve had the canned truffles and the oils, but never the fresh ones. Hopefully, one day this glorious occasion will happen. Maybe there’s still some sub-prime loans out there that we can take advantage of for some truffle splurge!

  7. Hey, Courtney – you can make some truffle butter with the oil. You may not have some chunks in there, bit it will still be delish. Also, I would recommend making a steak and just drizzling some of your oil (just a bit) on them – and don’t forget the fries!

    WORC – Yeah, we visited on honeymoon last year. The Piedmonte area is beautiful. We didn’t stay long b/c it’s EXPENISIVE but were able to see some of it on our way to Genoa. GOOOOO!

    Marc – I appreciate a man who can salivate at 2.47am (way to be exact!!!). Thanks for stopping by!

  8. “Marrying my wife was about the best of these handful of good ideas so far, but other gems include putting a roll of toilet paper in the refrigerator before heading out for some pints and an Indian meal”
    I LOVE you guys, you’re Hysterical! What a joy to find another cooking/blogging couple, especially such a cosmopolitan globe-trotting one! We really must get better acquainted. 🙂

  9. Thanks, Neen!! We’re weird, but we love to eat and cook and aren’t afraid to talk shit! Totally keep coming back!! You sound like our type of reader… HOLLA! -amy (and jonny too)

  10. thank you so much for visiting my blog- i was flattered. i have been taking peeks at yours off and on for a while now. i just recently started blogging, so am always most grateful for any new visitors.

    i lived in Rome for 6/7 years (last year I got married and moved away). the one regret i have is not having gone to the truffle festival in Alba, it is a dream of mine to go there, particularly also bec Barolo is favourite wine in the world. i hope to go there with my husband next year, but when you have friends and family in Rome, no one wants to let you leave their sights!

    i think your recipe is absolutely fantastic- (may i confess i dont like the taste of butter? am i banned from visiting your blog?) my husband adores butter, esp on his steak, hopefully we shall try this one day soon.

    what a lovely informative post.

    best wishes, shayma

  11. I don’t know why my comment got posted after 2 and a half words. Sorry!

    Anyhow, were you aware that some people have a genetically based inability to smell or taste truffles? Unfortunately for me, my partner found he was one of this minority after being at a science seminar. The speaker opened a bottle of truffle oil and asked the audience to raise their hand when they could smell the truffles. Poor Edd turned around in confusion to see 50 people with raised arms and the speaker saying’ ‘Hey, we’ve found our freak!’

    The same gene (we think) makes him gag at the compound that gives almonds and maraschino cherries their distinctive flavour. So now not only do I have to avoid using truffle in my cooking but my signature cherry and almond cheescake is a no go!

    1. @Ros: we hadn’t heard of that, though I think there are plenty more people that don’t like truffles even if they can smell them. It’s such an overpowering, earthy flavor, it’s no wonder it’s not for everyone. Shame about your cheesecake, but luckily, cheesecakes, even when plain, are pretty good, and it gives you the opportunity to test out new combinations!

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