Sometimes, when I’m watching “Top Chef” or “Chopped” or any slew of cooking TV, I hear chefs reference the almighty “truffle oil.” Until recently, I’d never even tried the stuff. All I knew was that it came from mushrooms. Which sounds like a complicated process (did they press them? Infuse them? Squeeze them in a vice? Stomp on them like that episode of “I Love Lucy?”).
Instead, when my lovely friend Amy (Check out her awesome food blog, Psych – in the Kitchen, here!) sent me a pair of truffle oil bottles for my birthday, I decided to do a little research.
These are truffles:
These are truffles in oil. Infusion is happening:
And this is Truffle Hunter brand truffle oil, which the wonderful Amy sent me in the mail. (If you’d like your own, you can buy it here on Amazon. Win!)
Fun fact: this nectar of the French and Italian culinary gods comes in two varieties: White and Black, depending on the original truffle. White oil is sometimes more garlicky and lighter in flavor, while black oil has, as Ina Garten called it, “the scent of old gym socks.” But dang, if the stuff doesn’t taste GOOOOOOD.
A few tips for cooking with truffle oil:
- Don’t use it as a sauteeing or frying oil. Frankly, it’s too expensive for that purpose; you’d spend $15 on a stir-fry! Instead, use it as a garnish or drizzle at the end of cooking or just before serving.
- Don’t OVER-use. A little goes a long way, both in terms of taste / flavor and in terms of that famous truffle aroma.
- Truffle oil imparts a rich flavor, so I’d use it in one of two ways: Bumping up a simpler recipe (say, drizzled over broiled asparagus or green beans?), or totally gilding the lily and taking a rich recipe over the top. Mangia!
In light of that last tip, here’s a recipe for Baked Ricotta with Truffle Oil I made for a recent party with friends. It’s probably the easiest appetizer I’ve ever whipped up, and the end effect is so decadent and fun that it’s an irresistible treat.
Baked Ricotta with Truffle Oil
Adapted from a recipe from Chow.com. Serves 8-10 partygoers
- One 16 oz. container of regular or part-skin ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- salt & pepper to taste
- White or Black truffle oil, to taste (max: 1 tsp)
- Crostini (toasted baguette slices) or crackers for serving
- Optional: Pesto to garnish crostini / crackers
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Coat a medium-sized Corningware or other oven-safe casserole dish with olive oil or cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, basil, salt & pepper until well combined. Spoon into casserole dish. Drizzle truffle oil and additional tsp chopped herbs (optional) to garnish.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until top has browned slightly. Serve with crostini or crackers; I also LOVE this dip with a little bit of pesto shmeared onto the crostini, too. Om nom nom.
I know it seems decadent, but why not give truffle oil a try? Who knows — you might just find your gourmet-loving self on an episode of “Top Chef” or “Chopped!”