What better way to spend the slow cold month of January working with some fresh Urbani white truffles?
Few ingredients instill both trepidation and elation in cooks more so than fresh truffles. Tears may flow at their mere site, out loud blubbering may commence with the opportunity to handle such a malformed fungal growth and outright elation with a follow-up cigarette may be warranted with the opportunity to cook with, arguably, the most costly food ingredient on the planet.
There is a certain command respect for any component to a dish that demands over $200 per ounce, is extremely perishable and equally rare. Urbani's White truffles, more aromatic and rarer species than the Black tuber melansporum have an unmistakable nose about them. A star-crossed mingling of sliced garlic and the dirt from which it grows; not quite musty, nor overwhelming, rather like the fragrance of your young love lingering on your skin the next morning. You can detect the presence of something special, a storied past, a little exotic and in need of exploration.
Truffles hold mystery for their cost, for sure. But, more importantly, they hold allure for their undeniable contribution to the dishes of which they become endeared. From the sublime to the commonplace, white truffles impart an invigorating, adrenaline charged motivation for all things sensory to continue on their pallet-driven adventure into the world of good eating. Make no mistake about it, the white truffle is not subtle nor an ancillary component to the dish. Certainly other ingredients are built on the foundation of preparing the course, but the zip, zing and zest of the white truffle is the screaming saxophone in a Dave Matthews concert. It is assuming and far from modest. And quality truffles are, well, inexplicably both worth the investment and the effort needed to caress them into harmony with the rest of the band.
Synonymous with truffles is Urbani. I have had the pleasure of working with a string of Urbaniproducts, including Black Truffles, white truffle butter, truffle oil, salsa di tartuffo and White Truffle Honey. What follows is a preparation using the honey. Mostly sweet, the honey is studded with the giant flavor of the White Truffle, so it took some real soul-searching to get it right. I kicked around some component of duck, thinking the sweet-savory facet would be complimentary to the 'big mouth' flavor of the duck. I jettisoned that in an attempt to tame the overtly dominant nature of all-dark meat. Still looking to address some feathered friend, I defaulted to chicken. Certainly not the high flying giant in the culinary field of duck, the chicken provides the gently muted background that works with such a vibrantly sweet and savory element. The tempura coating is crispy and lightly fat embedded. The honey is sweet enough to bring the lighter side of chicken to life. The garlic punch of the White Truffle moves the chicken up a notch in relative respectability. Lastly, the sprinkling of the toasted peanuts brings the dish to a fruitful finish. At least, that is the intent.
Tempura Chicken with White Truffle Honey
1 lb, 1/8"-thick sliced boneless chicken breast
1 cup, AP flour
2 Tablespoons, cornstarch
¾ teaspoon, kosher salt
1 cup, cold water
1 egg, yolk
2 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
Stir together flour, cornstarch and salt. In a separate bowl, mix ice water and yolk. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined but do not over mix. Whip egg whites in a clean bowl to form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture. Additionally, season the tempura (if desired) with whichever combination of dry seasonings you prefer.
½ cup, cucumber 'noodles' (outer skin of cucumbers cut 1/8" thick, the length of the cucumber. Most easily accomplished with the use of a mandolin)
¼ cup, julienne carrot
½ cup, julienne Napa cabbage
Thin sliced scallions, on the bias
1 oz, Rice wine vinegar
1 Tb, toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon, Urbani White Truffle Honey
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients and set aside.
1 Tablespoon, Urbani White Truffle Honey
Toasted peanuts, gently crushed
Preheat deep dryer to 350f. Dip the chicken in the tempura batter and cook until coating is just lightly browned. Mound the slaw garnish and surround with the cooked chicken. Generously drizzle the chicken with the honey and sprinkle with peanuts.