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Dinner & A Book - A Long Finish - Culinary Travels

Episode #1601 - A Long Finish - Culinary Travels
Marshall King joins executive chef Dont'e Shaw and sous chef Chris Janowsky at Café Navarre for a lesson in cooking with truffles. The culinary delight is a main component in Michael Dibdin's A Long Finish. The new segment takes literature and cooking outside the studio in the new season of Dinner & a Book.
Original Airdate: January 07, 2017

Field Notes

Marshall V. King

Dont'e Shaw remembers the first time he encountered truffles.

He was 21 years old, in an Indiana kitchen, and he fell in love.

When the package containing the orbs pulled from the earth was opened, he joined those who who have come to treasure the fungi.

"I love that they are very rare," he said in the kitchen of Cafe Navarre, the South Bend restaurant where he is now executive chef. We'd just taped the segment for "Dinner and a Book." He'd shaved a bit of black truffle over risotto that he had made with sous chef Chris Janowsky and owner Kurt Janowsky.

White truffles are more rare and more expensive. They also have that aroma that he loves. When he has one close enough to smell, he likes to make pasta from scratch and turn it into tagliatella. He makes beurre monte, or butter, sauce and adds truffle oil before tossing it with the pasta. Then, he grates the truffle over top.

Janowsky said he relishes food that is pungent, that you can smell from across the room. Truffles are best on bland food, so he favors them shaved on scrambled eggs, potatoes or risotto, he said.

My first encounter with truffles was in Italy about 20 years ago. At dinner in Florence, I ordered that rare food I'd heard about. It came as a thick, unctuous layer almost as thick as the chicken breast on which it nestled.

The deep, earthy flavor is unforgettable. Cheap truffle oil mimics it with chemicals, but it's not the same as the rare gems found in the earth, often by animals trained to do so.

The black truffles from Italy we used Friday at the taping are $70 an ounce. The white ones that are most sought after can go for $500 an ounce.

I joked with Shaw that I was pocketing the two truffles elegantly put in a wooden box that had held a whiskey bottle. I didn't. I just savored the flavor that was still in my mouth from what came off of them.

Those of us who love them are grateful for any chance to get a taste of the rare food that people have treasured for almost as long as we've been eating.