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Published: Tuesday December 31, 2013 MYT 12:10:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 31, 2013 MYT 1:12:02 PM

Black truffles by Jean-Pierre Vigato

Jean-Pierre Vigato, head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Apicius in Paris, enjoys cooking with black truffles. - AFP

Jean-Pierre Vigato, head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Apicius in Paris, enjoys cooking with black truffles. - AFP

One chef, one ingredient series.

JEAN-PIERRE Vigato presides over the kitchen at the Michelin-starred restaurant Apicius in Paris. Like many chefs, he has a particular fondness for cooking with black truffles.

What led you to choose this ingredient?

Truffles offer a complement to a number of dishes. I like everything about them. This is an ingredient that comes from the earth, that gives off such flavors! There is an entire aura of magic surrounding them.

When is this ingredient in season?

The season begins in early December. The first truffles have arrived, and it looks like we are in for a good year. The season continues through the end of February, sometimes into mid-March. And something that most people don’t know: they are at their best during this late period. Everything of course depends on the temperature, the humidity. But in general, I enjoy them at that time of year. By February, truffles are fully developed and more fragrant, and they become more affordable.

What is the best way to prepare it?

First of all, I will tell you the best way to taste it! Using a pocket-knife, make a small notch in the truffle. The color on the inside should be marbled, greyish and black, and it should release its aroma. If it doesn’t smell like anything, it’s just a rock! Eat the truffle on a piece of nice and crusty bread, with a few grains of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

What other ingredients can be combined with this one to delight and surprise the taste buds?

At the restaurant, I often offer it in a hachis Parmentier [a casserole made with mashed potato, chopped meat and sauce lyonnaise]. There is also the entire palette of dishes combining pork and truffles. The simplest combination is with potatoes. Cook the potatoes in water or in the oven. Mash them with olive oil or a little butter. Served with truffles, it’s pure happiness!

What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?

One must not slice truffles too thinly. Given their high price, people often serve them in slices that are really too thin, and the flavours cannot fully express themselves. There needs to be at least 1mm of thickness so that there is enough to bite into. Apart from that, the golden rule is to avoid cooking truffles. They should only be used to flavour dishes. For the hachis Parmentier, for example, I grate raw truffle over it only at the last minute. And the most common error of all is related to conservation. When some people ask me how to store truffles, I tell them “You wouldn’t ask me how to store a melon.” It is the same principle: truffles are a product that should be eaten immediately. A number of people conserve them the freezer or in jars, but they lose their flavour. The taste and the texture are no longer the same.

How do you offer this ingredient on your current menu?

As a starter: potato charlotte with truffles.

What wine (or other alcohol) is best married with this ingredient?

It is said that truffles should be served with certain Chenin Blanc or Riesling wines. But in the Southwest [of France], they are enjoyed with red wine. Personally, I recommend a Pomerol if the truffle is served in the main course. It’s like magic! For a lighter dish served as a starter, I would opt for a white wine. – AFP Relaxnews

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, black truffles, Jean-Pierre Vigato, One Chef One Ingredient

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