For the first time in four years (i.e. the first time since I’ve been in Switzerland), we’ve actually had what this New Englander could call an Autumn. There has been some actual color on the leaves, Fall temperatures, and that invigorating brisk chill in the air while the sun lights up the color of the landscape. We’ve been enjoying it by taking long strolls down by the lake shore, because I’ll never get tired of seeing the rays of the sun shining through the clouds down onto Lake Geneva.
Beyond the weather, one of the other fun things about Autumn is that truffle season has arrived here in Switzerland – visit any of the mushroom stands at the market, and you can see a small case of select prized truffles for sale, knobby little rounds of intense flavor whose aromas entice any passerby with their characteristic scent. In Switzerland you can find black truffles, with a slightly nutty taste that pairs so well in so many dishes. I’ve also seen the famous white truffles from Alba, Italy, but I would need a pretty special occasion to convince myself to empty my pocketbook quite that much…
So anyways, I splurged last weekend and bought myself a Swiss black truffle to try – I decided a risotto would be a great way to bring out its flavor, and kept the dish rather simple with some garlic & shallots, white wine, cheese, and of course the truffle itself. A truffle’s flavor becomes muted if cooked too long, so I added it in at the end (at the same point I added the cheese) just after I pulled the risotto off the heat. I also liked adding a few thin slices of shaved truffle onto the dish for garnish when serving - I liked how once exposed to the steam from the risotto they curled up to look a bit like petals.
This was my first experience cooking with a fresh truffle, and it certainly will not be my last – but when playing with new foods, often the best way to prepare something is to make a naturally gluten free dish that isn’t complicated, and lets the food’s natural flavor shine. Unless of course it’s kale. I don’t think any preparation method will ever make me like kale, unless of course I can’t really taste the kale because it’s floating in a soup or something.
But truffles? I could eat them in anything
- 1 L (4-5 cups) chicken (or vegetable) stock, preferably homemade (check brand to make sure GF if necessary)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 200 grams (1 cup) arborio rice
- 50-100 mL (1/4 - 1/2 cup) of medium/dry white wine
- 5 grams (1 - 2 tablespoons) finely grated black truffle
- 110 grams (4 ounces) pecorino cheese, grated
- salt / pepper to taste
- In a small pot, heat stock until just at a simmer, then turn the heat down to medium low, enough to just maintain the simmer.
- In a medium to large pot, melt butter on medium-high heat and add in the garlic and shallots, cooking until they are soft and translucent. Then pour in the rice, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon in order to coat the rice with butter (and keep it from burning), cooking for another minute or two.
- Deglaze everything with a generous splash of white wine, continuing to stir. Once the liquid has been absorbed from the wine, add in about 100 mL (1/2 cup) of the hot stock, stirring in a figure 8 pattern while the rice absorbs the liquid. Once it has absorbed the liquid, add another dose of stock to the rice, stirring continually, and repeat until the rice is soft and creamy, with an al dente texture. If you feel the rice is not soft enough after all the stock has been added, feel free to continue adding hot water until the rice is cooked to your desired doneness. If you feel the rice is ready before all the stock is used up, that's fine too.
- Take the rice off the heat and stir in the grated truffle and pecorino cheese. Add any salt/pepper to taste if desired and serve. Optionally, you can garnish with a couple of slices of fresh truffle to dress the dish up a little bit.
*Note – pecorino cheese is likely not a “true vegetarian” cheese, because it is made with rennet. But I’m getting the impression that most hard aged cheese is made with rennet, though I’m no expert. If this is an issue for you, do your research on which cheeses you can consume in accordance to your dietary restrictions, and please substitute in your favorite cheese that is ok for you.