So how did it start, this truffle obsession? Well, last year I got a great deal on black summer truffles from Italy from my friends at Specialty Produce in San Diego. My husband and I threw an impromptu party we dubbed Trufflepalooza - nine courses of truffles (and lots of fun for the chef too). Many photos were taken, and I blogged about it. That's turned out to be one of my most popular posts ever. Seems like other people are as taken with truffles as I am. It seemed clear that once was not enough.
And so Trufflepalooza II was born. This year I put in a little more advance planning. After last year's party I met the folks in the Los Angeles branch of Sabatino Tartufi, one of the biggest importers of fresh truffles from Italy and manufacturer of exquisite truffle salt, butter and oils. They supplied the truffles I got from Specialty Produce, and they stuck a card in the box because they wanted to know what kind of crazy non-professional home chef wanted to buy a pound of their truffles. Naturally, Sabatino and I became fast friends. The first time we had lunch, the Sabatino rep took a call on his cell phone at the table: I would have been insulted, but it was his mother phoning from Italy. In addition to the fact that he is an extremely nice and handsome Italian man - and what girl doesn't need more of those in her life? - the Sabatino guy is great company, often comes bearing truffle condiments and samples as gifts, and makes a mean risotto.
I called Sabatino to find out when the black summer truffles would be at their peak, and we set a date for Trufflepalooza 2010. Then I went to work on the menu. I meant to keep it simple, but I kept thinking of new things to do with those glorious truffles, and we ended up with 13 courses. You'll hear about them all over the next few weeks, but one of my favorites was this decadent grilled cheese with truffles.
For me, the ultimate grilled cheese starts with good bread and good cheese. I special-ordered brioche loaves from Le Pain du Jour, a small French bakery in Santa Monica. I used fontina because I love its buttery flavor and the way it oozes when it melts. A shower of grated truffle, a few drops of truffle oil, and a bit of butter, and you've got the best grilled cheese ever. EVER. Trust me.
Grilled cheese with truffles
- 4 slices brioche
- 1/3 cup grated fontina cheese
- a few drops of Sabatino black truffle oil
- Sabatino truffle sea salt
- 1 fresh Italian black summer truffle
- 2 tsp butter or olive oil
Put a skillet on the stove over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, put the sandwiches buttered- or oiled-side down. Press down with a spatula as the sandwich is toasting to flatten the sandwiches a bit. Butter or oil the sides facing up, then flip the sandwiches when the bottoms are golden brown. Cook until both sides are perfectly golden and toasted. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Two notes: First, for Trufflepalooza II, I actually made these in the oven, as making grilled cheese for 70 people on the stove would take quite a long time. But they're better made stovetop. Second, I know truffle oil and truffle salt look expensive. But they're worth the splurge, because you only use a little and the last a long time. Treat yourself.