Recipe: Spring Pizza with Truffle Oil, Brie and Egg
My husband and I didn’t have enough money to go on a honeymoon right after we were married. We’d bought a small house in Massachusetts and were sinking all of our resources into homemade curtains and wall paint.
We saved our pennies for two years, and finally went on a delayed honeymoon to Europe. We toured Switzerland for some days, which was pastural, green and spotlessly clean. Thanks to my husband’s advanced geographical acumen, he thought we were in Sweden. Then we went down to Florence, Italy which was gorgeous, except that we stayed out into the wee morning hours and then slept so late every day that we missed getting into the Uffizi. Young, eager and stupid, we weren’t quite ‘ugly tourists’, more like ‘ignorant tourists’.
Then we headed up to Milan to see my sister. She’s lived in a small, uneventful village north of the city since 1990. Her little village is beautifully settled in northern Italy, with views of the Alps, and it seems to be a nice place to live, there’s just not much to do in the town. We set out on the train or bus every day to discover different areas, take in the scenes and eat great food.
It was meandering aimlessly after lunch, one afternoon that my husband and I came across the coolest food shop we had ever seen. Down a craggy, cobbled pedestrian street, (we smelled it before we saw it), the sign above the door read simply, ‘Tartufo‘, (truffle). Inside, the shop was the size of a walk-in closet, but its bold, heady aroma wafted, literally through several streets. Inside the cramped cavern was a multitude of truffles: fresh, white, black, jarred, preserved, oils, salts, purees. Only open for a few hours each day, and only in the autumn, during truffle season– it was an absolute gem. I had never eaten truffle before and was resolute in procuring one, given this rare opportunity.
I like to say that I lingered in the tiny truffle shop for hours, but it was the sort of place, due to its compact size, that shoppers popped in, bought, and quickly popped out. ‘Un tartufo, per favore,’ I asked the ancient woman behind the counter, her face was amazing, like one of those apple faces that a child carves and then dries for a month. She opened her nearly toothless mouth and replied in a beautifully, long Italian sentence, some sort of question. I just stared at her, smiling like a lunkhead. She said something shorter this time, more curt, I just kept smiling. She shook her head as she wrapped my prized tartufo in brown paper, then stuck it into a small paper bag and handed it to me. I can’t remember how many thousands of lire it cost (this was pre-Euro), but it was hefty and I gladly paid.
I had grand plans for this little, earthen jewel– I would prepare her as if she were a princess, dressing her in luxurious cream and expensive Parmesan, draping her over a warm, silky bed of homemade pappardelle– she would be celebrated! Getting my profoundly perfumed darling through customs was no problem; I wrapped her in aluminum foil, then stuffed her into a zip top, plastic bag and forced that into layer upon layer of the socks my husband had been wearing and re-wearing to march around Italy and (Sweden) Switzerland for the previous two weeks.
The day after we returned to our home, I spent all afternoon culling ingredients from various markets and making the pasta. It was momentous, I was about to serve what could possibly be the world’s best pasta dish. My husband and I sat down, and dug in.
It was at that moment that I came to realize that I hated the taste of truffle. I couldn’t even take a second bite. I didn’t try a truffle dish again for close to twenty years.
Until this past summer when a friend gave me a tiny bag of white truffle salt. We were in Cape Cod and had left-over lobster in the fridge. I took a leap of faith, seasoning the lobster, some fresh corn and chopped Vidalia onion with the salt then wrapping it in fresh flounder and roasting. Holy mother of God, that was an unbelievably delicious, decadent dish.
I don’t know what happened, but since that summer dish I have been truffle crazy. It’s not an easy flavor to marry with others– unlike thyme, there are limits to its uses.
The truffle flavor in this dish is not overwhelming. It is prominent, but doesn’t overtake the entire pizza. This is a good one for a special dinner, or cut into small squares to serve as an appetizer.
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (use the good stuff)
About 32 thin spears of asparagus
5 ounces Brie
Whole wheat pizza dough
4 whole eggs, at room temp (optional)
1) Make the pea purée: Cover the peas, fresh or frozen, with water and bring to a boil. As soon as they boil, immediately drain in a colander and run cold water over them, drain. Purée the peas with the truffle oil and water until not quite smooth, add in the Parmesan and process just a minute to combine. Season with salt to taste.
3) Preheat the oven to 425F. Roll the dough out thinly, smear olive oil on a rectangular baking tray, place the dough in the tray. Spread the pea purée on the dough– you will only use about 2/3 of the purée (use the rest as a sandwich spread or dip). Lay the asparagus on top in a diagonal pattern, then place a piece of brie inside each square.
4) Bake for 5 minutes, then, if you are using, crack the eggs onto the pizza, season with salt (truffle salt would be nice) and return to the oven to bake for approximately 15 minutes longer, until the eggs are just set and the yolks are soft. If you are not using the eggs, just bake until the brie goes gooey and golden.
Serve hot or room temp. Dinner for 4 or apps for 12
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