Nobody knows the truffles I've seen... Seriously, last night I had the pleasure of attending a truffle tasting at Caputo's Market & Deli, with Francesco Mazzini of Urbani Truffles in attendance. I'm not likely to pass up a chance to taste truffles and I sure wasn't going to miss this one. One of the highlights was an amazing truffle-spiked macaroni and cheese that Matt Caputo made.
But, one thing was on my mind: truffle oil. Frankly, I hate the stuff. And, increasingly, it seems to appear in restaurants on everything from pizza to potatoes. Most of it is nasty. Chef Gordon Ramsey called truffle oil "one of the most pungent, ridiculous ingredients ever know to chef." I agree.
Well, I wanted to once and for all get the skinny on truffle oil. So, I asked Francesco what truffle oil really is and how it's made. His answer was enlightening.
"The best way to experience truffles is by eating fresh truffles," said Mazzini. He should know. Urbani has been in the truffle business since 1890 and was the first to supply truffles for White House functions. However, fresh truffles are economically off-limits for most of us, so many turn to truffle oil.
According to Francesco, most truffle oils aren't made from actual truffles. They are a synthetic product combining aromas found in real truffles with an olive oil or grapeseed oil base. So, you've got a thioether gas (the aromas) combined with oil. The problem is that gas and oil don't combine. So, what happens in the bottle is that you typically get very concentrated truffle aromas when the bottle is first opened, since the gas rises to the top. But it quickly dissipates and, according to Mazzini, the aromas are gone quickly.
This is the way that Urbani made their truffle oils, until recently. A few years ago, they developed a natural method for creating truffle oil. Rather than infusing oil with truffle aromas - which fades almost instantly - Urbani extracts protein from actual truffles, then uses casein and lactose as a carrier to get the truffle protein into the oil. According to Mazzini, this allows the truffle essence to be thoroughly incorporated into the oil, from top to bottom, providing truffle flavor consistency from the first to the final drop.
So, there you go. If you want real truffle oil, you'll need to buy it from Urbani. Or, Caputo's - according to Matt Caputo, he plans to start carrying Urbani truffle oils soon.
Meanwhile, please keep your truffle oil away from my food!