A Truffle a Day — Day 2
In this second of a series of one-a-day truffle recipes, excerpted from Cooking with Truffles: A Chef’s Guide, the juxtaposition of this most luxurious ingredient against the simplicity of Southern grits illustrates how it is possible for even a modest household to serve up a truffle now and then.
For all its reputation as a tobacco and moonshine producing region, the South of the United States is now becoming home to both Tennessee and Tarheel truffles (as well as Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, and even Florida truffles!), so you can eventually envision a local supply of both the corn for the grits and that musky magic that makes every dish come to life in an unexpected way.
Of course this doesn’t happen overnight. The soil must be cleared and tilled. It must be treated with lime until it reaches the appropriate pH. Then seedlings inoculated with the appropriate truffle spores must be planted and tended for anywhere between 4 and 12 years before one might hope to see any results. Finally, one must have a trained dog or pig ready to sniff them out, and once they are dug, they must be used or marketed within 10 days before they begin to spoil.
This is the short story. But herein lies the catch: What if, once these most precious of ingredients reaches the chef’s hand, the chef doesn’t know what to do with them? What if (s)he tries to heap every specialty ingredient in the kitchen on one plate? What if there is too much acidity and it kills the aroma? Too much spice? What if there is no heat or fat involved in the dish and the essence is lost?
It is my hope that in the writing of the aforementioned book, and in the sharing of these recipes, I might help bridge the gap between grower and chef, truffle and diner, so that the truffle, when it finally sees the light of day, can be savored in full measure.
Here is an easy and delectable recipe, which can be prepared with any sautéed mushroom if your pantry is lacking in the truffle itself.
A favorite in the morning as well as a perfect accompaniment to seared meat or seafood, these grits make for a delightful snack at any time of day.
1 cup coarsely ground grits
4½–5 cups water (less if using quick-cook grits)
2 tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
¹∕ ³–1 ounce grated truffle
Cook grits as indicated on the package, which should take anywhere between 5 to 50 minutes, depending on the grind. Add a generous nob of butter, a few grains of salt, and a grating of truffles. Serve topped with sunny-side-up eggs (stored with the truffle overnight for that special truffly flavor) and another grating of truffles, or as a side to any main ingredient.