Second Day of Cooking School – Everything about Truffles

Francesco and his truffle hunting dog Leah.  She likes to eat them - expensive dog treat at $150 per pound.

Francesco and his truffle hunting dog Leah. She likes to eat them - expensive dog treat at $150 per pound.

I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t like truffles until I came to Culinary boot camp in Italy.   Which I guess is a good thing – god knows I don’t need anymore expensive habits.  However, I did have a very good time discovering just how much I did not like truffles.   We started out the second day of cooking school with an adventure to go hunting for truffles with Francesco and his truffle sniffing dog Leah.   This required an hour drive to the countryside.   And a half mile walk to their fenced in tree farm.  Truffles grow around the base of the trees and they can harvest them from September to February.   Only people who have passed a truffle exam can go get truffles and this was Francesco’s family’s private truffle tree farm.

After truffle hunting, was luuuunnnnnccccchhhhh at a local restaurant.  EVERYTHING we were served had truffles in it.  Lunch is no small event here – it lasted over two hours.   I think I learned more how to socialize over long meals in this class than how to cook italian food.

We got back to Academia Barilla in time to start cooking lesson number two – this was at 5 PM.  We proceeded to start preparations for a five course meal – which included, what else – TRUFFLES.   It appeared that some of my classmates were not faring so well from the rich lunch of cream laden truffle trifels.   So, I deviated from their menu and pulled out my ginger root.  YES, I traveled to Italy with my own ginger root.   (See post several down on my recovery kit for the swine flu).    It was a round of ginger root and chamomille tea for all.   Our teacher chef, Nicola, didn’t seem too excited that I had hijacked one of the burners and a pan for my concoction, but when he learned that it would help him get over the latest bug his two year old brought home from nursery school, he appreciated my efforts.   I turned my classmates onto the ultimate cureall of the ancient world – ginger.   Oddly enough, I could not find ginger root at the local grocery store.

Dinner was a very cool pasta ravioli like thing (I can’t for the life of me remember the name) that had an egg dropped in the middle, guinea hen in truffle sauce (we got to use a blow torch on that fowl),  polenta with a truffle cream sauce (yuck), and some almond biscotti for dessert.   I’m sure there were a couple of other courses in there – but they obviously weren’t that memorable or I would’ve remembered them.   I might have remembered if we ate before ten PM.  This dinner was another two hour affair.  By the second day of cooking school, I was getting to know my classmates VERY WELL.   Luckily – I really like these folks.    It was starting to feel like Culinary boot camp – second day – Truffle Hazing.

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