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Truffle dinner party

I was so surprised when my colleagues at GPO gave me my birthday present…..a HUGE black truffle from WA. Wow my own truffle. I could just imagine how much this was worth and already dishes were flashing in my mind of what I could do with this piece of gold.

I knew I had to make time that weekend, in between all the birthday celebrations to cook and use it all up. There was no delay, I knew exactly who I wanted to share my present with…..a few friends who I have met over the past couple of years. One is Assistant Sommelier at Rockpool B&G who I met working at a ‘not so great’ restaurant and the other is an amazing Webcoder who has exceptional knowledge and a photographic memory of wine whom I served when he first arrived into Sydney from California. I made the calls, set the time and now it was up to me to work out a menu. I had three days to do so.

You would think truffle had to go with eggs…and yes I would have loved to do scrambled eggs with truffle, however, I am not good at scrambled eggs and so figured I did not want to waste it on something I am not confident at cooking. Also I was worried about storing it. When I got it, it was in a cryovac pouch with rice, but if I opened it premature to my dinner party would it keep at the same standard? Would it spoil? I could not have that happen, so I held out and put all my eggs into one basket. The whole truffle was to be used at that dinner party.

Reading, searching and skimming through countless recipes took up my weekend. I decided on fish souffle, risotto, then changed that to baked gnocchi or polenta. Recipes were ticked then ripped up as I tried to create the perfect dinner party, but finally they came together to create a simple yet tasty meal which will pair with the foods I was told I needed to match.

Entree needed to match an Alsacian Reisling or something similar so for this I could have gone either two ways: spicy or creamy. As a lot of you know I am not the biggest fan of Asian cuisines and so for me to do something of this sort it is a miracle. The latter seemed easier to achieve and more in the realm of my comfort zone. I did look up a whole range of savoury souffles which would be fun to make, however the twice baking, which lets face it, looks so much better, would take a lot longer and I wanted to prepare most of the meal beforehand, so out it went. Finally I decided on butter, poaching in butter sounds quite decadent but not as much as something the majority of which is cream, so tick tick tick, this one stuck.

Mains were to pair with a nice Burgundy, so nothing too heavy or overpowering. Poultry of some sort that not only had to match the wine but also highlight the truffle. I did want to do something with seafood to start with, but since entree was to be seafood I really did have to switch over to meat for mains. It was quite hard to find recipes with truffles and poultry I must admit. A lot of my cookbooks are too basic to feature truffles and the ones that did were either a risotto or an appetizer with scallop. Finally I did stumble upon a recipe which I was able to tweak a little which featured quails which were stuffed with truffle. Achievable and not too complex. Perfect.

Of course I do love to cook complex dishes that take days to prepare, however I was cooking at someone else’s house so ability to transport had to be considered.

So this is how it went down. I prepared the stuffing for the quail and the mash ahead of time. Once I arrived at my friend’s house I set to work. Task 1 was of course to get the truffle ready and sliced. Wow what a beautiful piece of specimen. If it were a piece of steak I could tell you it would also be of an extremely high quality. Look at that marbling!

I was actually quite surprised at how much it yielded. I could have gotten more but my mandolin was set a little too think.

I separated my yield into three piles, one for the mash, one for the quail stuffing and one for an extra dish I threw in. Firstly I chopped up the truffles for the mash so they could infuse through and develop in flavour.

Next was to chop the truffles for the quail stuffing then stuff them so they can also develop in flavour.

Then lastly I layered the truffles for my pop up dish until it was ready to bake. This dish is a variation of a dish from the Pier cookbook. They used marscapone, but I was using buffalo mozzarella. I sliced the scallops in half then layered the truffle then mozzarella on top.

While the cooking started, we also started ‘refreshments’.

NV Domaine de Montbourgeau Cremant du Jura then a 2009 Le Pere Jules Poire Pays D’Auge. The former is a blanc de blanc style and is from only Chardonnay grapes. This gives it its deep yellow hue and rich flavours of green apple and nuts yet has a lovely minerality an high acidity. The latter which is very low in alcohol (only 2.8%) was basically like drinking fizzy sweet pear juice, and hence it goes down very easily. Unfortunately we drank them in the wrong order, but hey, we still enjoyed every drop.

After a few hello’s and drinks, I got straight back into it and prepared all the vegetables for the entree: Balmain Bugs poached in butter with a witlof and fennel salad. I added the butter, and here there was no holding back, then sauteed down some eschallot and fennel which were very finely sliced. Once that was ready and the salad was dressed and plated, the bugs were ready to go in. They don’t take long at all so you need to be watching them constantly, as overcooked bugs will be tough and not have the nice sweet flavour they should, not to mention it will be a waste of money. Once cooked I plated and served. It was divine!

This dish was supposed to be enjoyed with a 2007 Domaine Huet Le Mont demi-sec (Vouvray) however the bottle was mixed up and we actually opened this instead. A 2009 Domaine Belluard Gringet Les Alpes (Savoie), which was still a beautiful pairing. Don’t worry the former bottle was not wasted and we enjoyed that too, a little later on.

As we sat and digested I decided to throw the scallops into the oven at a reasonably low heat, round 130 degrees, as I did not want them to cook instantly without the mozzarella having ample time to melt. Again this is a piece of seafood which is very very easy to overcook to an unpleasurable point, so I was watching and watching for their flesh to change to a stark white, and as soon as it did, I took them out. I was surprised at how much juice they let out, which I am sure would have been lovely stirred through some rice or other carbs seafood dish, however, it was not needed here so I just carefully scooped it out and then served.

I did not want to rush the next dish as we again needed to digest but also finish our drinks before we moved into the burg. Unfortunately my partner did not come, and really it was his loss as each course had that extra serve leftover which we ‘had’ to eat. Tough life really, but a shame he could not enjoy the truffle. Oh well, I am quite certain the others had no objection to enjoying more.

The burg that we were enjoying was a 2001 Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny “Les Hauts-Doix” and was opened quite early in the night to open up, and it was needed as the wine connoisseur said it was quite tight and needed some air. By this stage it was very smooth and earthy, which was especially chosen to go with the truffle flavours, and with a good body.

The quail took about 20 minutes to cook, which was good timing for a dinner party because the past thing you want is to be stuck in the kitchen preparing or waiting an hour in between courses. The only thing I had left to do before plating was blanch some green beans and heat up the mash, but again it was a quick fix and did not take me away from conversation for too long.

Mains were served: Mushroom and truffle stuffed quail with truffle mash and green beans.

The quail was delicious if I do say so myself, and actually watching people eat quail is interesting. I did not even bother with the fork and knife but went straight in with my hands. Those little creatures have too many bones to play with, if you have not bought de-boned ones, which I do not know where you can find. The others started off being ‘proper’ and attacking them with cutlery, but quickly resorted to my method.

We were all very full and satisfied by this stage. The truffle has been demolished except for one serve of quail which ended up being someone’s lunch the following day.

The consuming of wine continued. Once we finished the burg we moved back to white to a bottle that was opened by mistake, then onto another red, a 2009 Dard & Ribo Hermitage Rouge which is a natural wine that is bursting with berries and so extremely different to the burgundy we had just had.

I did spring dessert on everyone too, and actually had not planned to prepare anything, however I did make choc-orange brownies that morning to take to another friend who ended up being sick and not able to enjoy the truffle, although when I went to deliver them to him he was not home. I did not want to bring them home as I already had enough, so warm gooey choc orange brownies with creme fraiche ended up being dessert, not that anyone was complaining….

Overall it was a very very successful dinner, and I think one of the easiest dinner parties I have done. It was so smooth, the recipes were extremely simple and even cooking wise, each of them were quick to dish up. Of course having a truffle to work with does make it extra special, but I am so glad I got to share it with these friends who truly appreciated it.

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