French Dining and the Elusive Truffle

August 9, 2010
Written by Rita Cook in
The Welcoming Table
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When I first visited France and heard we were going truffle hunting, I mistakenly thought, like many people, about chocolate truffles. Who hasn’t heard of chocolate truffles? In France, that’s blasphemy since everyone knows the French truffle has nothing to do with chocolate, and everything to do with fine dining ala the elusive mushroom. In fact, truffles are a type of subterranean mushroom that come in either a black or a white color.

Often referred to by its Provencal name; "rabasse” or "black diamond," the truffle grows around the roots of plants, near either the oak tree, or herbs like lavender, or thyme. Over the centuries, entire farms have completely engaged in raising just truffles in France, and they are replete with guards to deter the truffle poachers because the price of this legendary mushroom is so high.

Although most commonly found in the Provence or southeastern part of France, truffles are also in Perigord in the southwest or in Burgundy. It’s really however, the southeastern part that produces the bulk of this infamous mushroom. In fact, about 70 percent of the harvest in one year yields as much as 50 tons. During the harvest season from November through early spring, the truffles, buried deep in the ground often require the use of trained dogs or pigs to sniff this delicacy out.

Normally, a truffle takes quite a few years to grow and the oak tree is usually about 40-years-old before truffle creation even begins. These days however, truffle growers have found ways to treat younger oak trees to aid in the truffle growing process, which can begin after about a decade.

As for storing truffles, if stored in an airtight jar, they may last for up to ten days in a refrigerator. If keeping the truffles in a freezer, wait about two months to get the best flavor, and remember that once you open the airtight jar, you must use the truffle within three days, and always store in a cool place after opening.

There is no doubt that the French know their cuisine is something to be proud of and always an event, but with the inclusion of a truffle dish, the experience becomes absolutely revered. Most French restaurants have a traditional truffle dish on the menu, and for most of the French Michelin star restaurants it’s a requirement.

Want to try your hand at using truffles in your next meal, here’s one French recipe that incorporates truffle mustard along with Filet Mignon.

Truffled Filet Mignon in CrustTruffled Filet Mignon
in Crust

Ingredients needed:

  • Black Truffle Mustard
    (5 percent of Truffles)

  • 1 whole jar Black Truffle Mustard

  • 1 pork filet mignon
    (1 pound)

  • 1 egg

  • 1 sheet puff pastry

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • Sea Salt & Pepper

The recipe:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Coat the meat with mustard saving about one tablespoon for later use.

  2. Wrap the filet mignon in the pastry and seal the edges with a fork. Trim the pastry to the same size as the meat.

  3. Beat one egg adding salt and pepper and brush this over the pastry.

  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown.

  5. Reduce the heat to 230 degrees F and continue to cook for 20 minutes.

  6. Over medium heat in a small pan, warm your cream and the one tablespoon of mustard. After it boils reduce the heat and let sit for four minutes without boiling.

  7. Pour the sauce over the Filet Mignon and serve along with a vegetable or even rice.

Truffles also go well with eggs in truffle omelets or scrambled eggs with truffles. Alternatively, you can even make a truffle salad. One thing for sure, is that there are recipes for truffles in appetizers, desserts, meat, fish, or in vegetable dishes.

The Welcoming Table