Though it's being reported that truffles are sadly going the way of the dodo, with sky high prices to match - I had only a little trouble getting my hands on the truffle salt I used to make truffled popcorn for our Oscar Supper Club party on Sunday night. My friend Lisa clued me in to the magic of this stuff at our last supper club meeting, and a few others chimed in that they were smitten too. An hour or so after the gathering I was sniffing a jar of the stuff at Sur la Table, but at the time I couldn't think what on earth I would do with it. It's not horrendously expensive at $20. a jar, but I was too afraid that I would just leave it sitting in the pantry where it would lose all of that delicious aroma that was coming right through the glass - so I didn't buy it. Of course, just after that it occurred to me that it would be the perfect thing for making truffled popcorn, which would in turn be the perfect thing for an Oscar party. I went looking in another Sur la Table in Orange County for the same product (which goes by the brand name Tartufe Langhe) but the cupboards were bare - literally. Not a truffled anything in sight.
I considered buying a fresh truffle and trying to make some myself, but that wasn't exactly going to be cost effective - considering they're running in the hundreds per ounce right now. Running short on time for shopping, I decided to take a chance and just order the salt from Amazon. I chose the one with the highest ratings, assuming it couldn't suck too badly. It's not quite as overwhelmingly fragrant as the one I found at Sur la Table - but it does the trick.
In the meantime, we also went to dinner with some friends at Cavaillon, where two of us enjoyed the truffle tasting menu, and the other two enjoyed the Monday 3 course prix fixe. The lovely Jora had some slivers of truffle left over, which I took home and minced, and then tossed with some Maldon salt. That didn't really work so well - there wasn't nearly as much truffle essence in there as in the jar of truffle salt that eventually arrived in the mail.
Still experimenting, a few days later I took some of the truffle salt and melted about two tablespoons of butter and stirred the salt into it. My thinking was that the salt was fragrant enough that it would actually infuse the butter with the truffle flavor. I let that sit in the fridge for a day or two, and when I had popped the popcorn, I melted that with a little more butter and tossed it in a large bowl with a dusting of the dry salt. It was a little salty, but definitely had good truffle flavor. You could probably get close to the same effect by just stirring the truffle salt into your melted butter before tossing it with the popcorn, but I think having the butter infused with the truffle before-hand helped at least a little bit.
For the corn, I used some organic microwave popcorn from Vons (Safeway) that said it was nothing but corn and a little bit of oil. It worked well, but I'd never made microwave popcorn in the current microwave I own - so I burned one pretty badly and took the last one out way too soon because I wasn't paying close attention. Assuming you're smarter than I am, you won't have these problems. Luckily we wound up with a good amount that was edible. It's much better when it's warm so I'd say only make what you intend to serve pretty quickly. If you want to get really fancy, you can make it on the stovetop - it's really pretty easy, and might even taste better.
Here is a recipe of sorts - the main issue is that of course you have to have the truffle salt which is a little bit expensive, but it's also great for other things - steaks, potato gratins, french fries, burgers - pretty much any cheese, meat or starch you can think of.
Other formulas suggest the use of truffle oil or the addition of finely grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese. Since truffle oil is usually synthetic I probably wouldn't go that route - but a fine dusting of parmesan might be good though - as long as it's not just gilding the lily. I'll let you be the judge of that.
serves 6-8 as a cocktail snack
1 teaspoon truffle salt, divided
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided
Eight cups of popcorn (approximate)
1-2 days before you plan to make the popcorn, melt two tablespoons of butter and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of truffle salt. Cover and refrigerate.
Pop the popcorn and place it in a large shallow bowl. Just before serving, add the additional 2 tablespoons of butter to the truffled refrigerated butter and melt gently. Pour this over the warm popcorn and toss to coat. Add more truffle salt if needed - heap into bowls or cones and pass with champagne or cocktails.
Good places to try truffled popcorn out and about in SD include Currant and Blanca. Both of these restaurants, incidentally, have recently tweaked their menus - with Blanca lowering prices significantly. We tried it for restaurant week and really liked it - more coming on that soon!