This is what happens when you turn off the computer and curl up on the couch on a quiet Sunday afternoon and read the Alinea cookbook. I ordered this impressive book while I was in Italy, before it was published and since we’ve been back in NY, I just been able to spend any quality time with it. I didn’t buy it expecting to duplicate the recipes; I bought it for inspiration. Just in case, Alinea is Grant Achatz’s Chicago restaurant, and it’s one of the most innovative, multi-sense experiences going on in the dining world. I love how the book is divided up into seasons and the recipes, although very technical, are actually very pure, clean flavor combinations. The description of the cold potato/hot potato recipe intrigued me, but I didn’t have 10 pounds of black truffles on hand, and I wasn’t in the mood for a cold soup, but it was the spirit of the recipe was enticing.
The Alinea recipe calls for a paraffin bowl that has a butter poached hot potato sphere, a sprig of chive, and a crumble of parmigiano all skewered on a pin that is perched over an ice cold truffle/potato soup. While that may sound a bit precious, it’s actually a rock solid, time honored flavor combination with truffles.
Here’s where my inspiration took me: I made a mushroom stock with brown cremini mushrooms, oyster, shitake and some dried porcini, boiled a chopped Yukon gold potato in the stock, pureed it and served the hot soup with a sprinkle of parmigiano and a bit of white truffle oil. It was a magical combination, like velvet on the tongue with a lingering truffle finish.
Yes, I know white truffle oil is a synthetic flavor and I’m willing to live with that because there are no white truffles in Manhattan that I can afford. I also don’t believe that truffles travel very well and are best eaten as close as possible to where they were foraged, so I can’t justify paying the going NYC price for white truffles. And for an accent flavor, the truffle oil was just fine.
As this was just a wing and a prayer experiment, I can’t give you a recipe, but feel free to riff on my riff and together we can make some lovely music. Playing in the kitchen can be such good fun.