Saturday, April 9, 2011
The Importance of Good Ingredients: Chanterelle Pasta with Black Truffle Butter Sauce
It's been forever since I posted here, I know. Admittedly, law school has reduced my free time down to a mere pittance; I'm lucky enough if I have enough energy to make a delicious dinner, much less photograph it.
Nevertheless, I decided to put up a recipe this week for two reasons:
(1) This recipe couldn't be easier -- it's a treatise on the fact that if you get your hands on flavorful, good quality ingredients, put them in the same dish, and stay out of the way, you can still make magical things, even on a school night.
(2) Relatively speaking, this is a surprisingly inexpensive dish.
Don't believe me? Read on.
Chanterelle Pasta with Black Truffle Butter Sauce
Serves 2 as an entree; 4 as a pasta course
1 Pound of dry Pasta (linguini preferred)
1/4 pound of Sweet Cream Butter, unsalted
1/3 pound young Chanterelle mushrooms, fresh, not dried
1/2 oz. of Oregon Black Truffles
A few healthy gratings of Parmigiano Reggiano (or a reasonable equivalent)
A few cracks of fresh Black Pepper
Kosher Salt (for the pasta water)
Now, I can hear what you're saying: Black Truffles? On a graduate student budget?
Fear not. One of the best parts of living in Los Angeles is the presence of wonderfully -supported and well-larded farmer's markets; without any particular city center or meeting place, these temporary markets are where many folks gather, where familiar faces are always seen.
And why not? This isn't the cabbage and potato-dominated winter market of the East Coast -- we have cheap, handpicked mushrooms (the Chanterelles cost me about four bucks), ripe Oxnard strawberries, same-day harvested San Diego oysters, blood oranges being practically given away...and all this in February, March, and April!
The highlight for me, however, is the presence of Oregon black truffles. At the Santa Monica Farmer's Market for only eight weeks each year, these little beauties smell like real-deal Perigords ($200 an oz., fresh), but sell for one-tenth the price ($20 per oz.) Each little truffle is about 1/2 a ounce; more than enough to generously serve four people. Think about what even a plate of all'amatriciana would run you at a restaurant; this costs about the same.
I know some of you spent 10 dollars this week on a bad sandwich and a cup of coffee; you can afford this. For the rest of you, you'll have to come visit California (or go right to Oregon) to get your fix.
Start with a good handful of pasta, about a pound. I can spaghetti-cut on hand; linguini would be ideal. Toss it into well-salted, rapidly boiling water.
Using a wet paper towel, rub off any excess dirt from the 'shrooms. Trim off the very bottom of the stems if they look bad.
Grab your hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano. An aged gouda would also work in a pinch. Don't use Pecorino; it's too salty.
Meanwhile, start melting your stick of butter over medium heat. Watching it carefully, let it start to brown ever so slightly; don't stir it. Remove your pasta from the boiling water; it should be al dente by now.
When the first tints of color appear in the butter, toss in your chanterelles and turn up the heat. Saute for about two minutes, then remove the mushrooms and toss the pasta into the hot butter for an additional minute. Crack some pepper into the pan.
Divvy the infused pasta onto four plates, and top with the mushrooms and any extra butter left in the pan. Grate the black truffle (1/8 oz for each person) using a microplane, then quickly grate the parmesan over that.
Immediately -- literally, run it to the table -- serve to your guests, and tell them to stick their noses into the plates first; the aroma of this dish alone is reason enough to make it.
The final product:
This is truly a revelation in flavor, and a reminder that eating well doesn't have to break the bank. There's only one problem; you'll like this dish so much that you'll think about it the other 44 weeks of the year when truffles are out of season. Ah well -- to everything there is a season, I suppose.
Music: The Byrds -- "Turn! Turn! Turn!"