If truffle oil were really all that bad, it wouldn't continue ending up on dishes in some of the best restaurants in Houston. As with any other pungent ingredient, there are some rules for using it, though.
- Get the right kind. Jeremy correctly pointed out that there are many truffle oil travesties out there. This is not the kind of thing you can just grab off a grocery store shelf and expect it to suddenly turn you into a gourmand. Seek out natural truffle oil, like this one. Truffle oil, ideally, is truffle-infused oil -- no more and no less. Locally, check Central Market and Trader Joe's for some examples of the real deal. Read the labels carefully, and regard any that say "essence of truffle" with a suspicious eye.
- Put it on the right foods. Repeatedly, people cited potatoes, eggs and salads as the items that they enjoy with a light application of truffle oil.
- Use the right amount. More is definitely not better when it comes to this ingredient! It's akin to green olives or anchovies. A little enhances; a lot destroys. It is the overuse of truffle oil that drives people to say they'll never have it again. You're not going to prove your prowess as a cook by using more than a light drizzle, ever.
Here are some dishes that will either introduce you to appropriate use of truffle oil or allow you to grudgingly acknowledge that it does indeed have its place:
- Truffle Oil Fries at Max's Wine Dive
- Truffled egg toast at Dolce Vita Pizzeria and Enoteca
- Also from Dolce Vita, the Talleggio Pizza with taleggio, arugula, pears and truffle oil
- Truffled egg salad at Local Foods
- Slow-poached egg with shaved serrano ham, comte, Italian truffle oil and basil at Hubble & Hudson (cited by Albert Nurick of the HTownChowDown blog as one of the best egg dishes he's ever had)
Like Jeremy, I'm not a fan of artificial ingredients or chemical additives (although that hasn't stopped me from eating Cheetos yet). But there's an alternative that he didn't mention.
Best of all, if you're a fan of truffles, why not make your own truffle oil? It so easy that it's silly not to. Yes, it's going to be more expensive than the pre-made kind because you'll need to actually buy a fresh truffle (or two), but then you will have no doubt that you're getting the real deal. It won't be strongly flavored like off-the-shelf oil, but that's the aspect that many people hate anyway.
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SHOW ME HOW
Your chance to give this a try is just around the corner. A quick call to Central Market revealed that black truffles are due to arrive within the next two weeks, and white ones will show up in November. Luxuriate in a few shavings on a special dish, then preserve the rest so you can indulge in truffles the rest of the year when they're not in season. Keep the oil in the fridge and out of the light to keep it at its best. Protect it from air (place plastic wrap on the surface prior to sealing) and just take the portion you need when you use it. Leave the rest refrigerated.