I have lived in France for nearly all my adult life. I married into a family of great cooks, serious cooks who believe that food should be prepared with care and eaten slowly … I have been lucky to dine in some of the great restaurants of France, and have had some pretty amazing dishes, but this week, well this week I tasted something that took my breath away!
Let me set the scene … and there’s only one photo for this story so your imagination will have to do the hard work here.
We have friends who own and run one of the best restaurants in our valley. They are both great cooks, each with their own specialities and both have trained with some of the big names in French cuisine.
They took the week off and invited us over one evening to their sweet country house, that was formerly his grandmothers childhood home. A quiet evening, just them, their two daughters and my husband and I.
The stone house is small, low ceilings, narrow doors, stone floors, and huge fires burning in the kitchen and sitting room. We settled down for our aperitif in the sitting room, and once our champagne glasses were full and plates of tiny delicious appetizers placed in front of us one of the daughters came into the room with a tray of eggs and a big metal bowl complete with balloon whisk. “Combien d’œufs papa?”, she asked her dad how many eggs she should break. The reply came that five would be more than enough.
I was mystified. Normally food preparation would be done in the kitchen, not in between the champagne glasses in front of fire! And five eggs for six people? strange! …. As the young girl broke the eggs into the big bowl I heard a “Mmmmm…”, she smiled and held out the bowl for me to smell. “We are preparing a treat for you this evening “.
As soon as leant towards the bowl I understood …. truffles! The eggs had been kept in a glass jar for two days in the company of whole black truffles, and the very distinctive and delicious perfume of the truffles had been absorbed through the egg shell.
She started to beat the eggs with the huge whisk, then passed it to her sister, her mum and even to me. Those five eggs were whisked for almost an hour while we chatted and sipped bubbles, and slowly but surely they grew paler and foamier until they more than doubled in size.
Remy stoked up the fire and produced a wide deep frying pan on a five foot long handle. He unwrapped a new slab of fresh butter, and cut it in half. He then speared the demi-slab which must have been at least 4 ounces or 120 grams in weight and dropped it into the pan. Can you hear me gasp?!
The pan held carefully above the flames, the butter soon began to melt and sing. The same daughter emerged from the kitchen holding a small plate of … grated truffle! “Tu peux y aller”, said her dad, and she slowly let the truffle shavings slide into the butter.
The pan returned to the flames and was gently swirled until the truffle was evenly dispersed. “Maintenant les œufs”, time to pour in the eggs. The metal bowl was tipped, ever so gently, and the pale foaming egg mix slipped into the butter.
Now only a few minutes were required for the eggs to warm thoroughly and begin to cook on the outside of the soufflé omelette. No wooden spoon or any other utensil was used, but the pan simply moved and occasionally given a sharp tap, causing the omelette to slide across part of the pan and flip its edge over towards the middle. The small pieces of truffle stood out as dark flecks against the soft yellow eggs.
There was a sudden urgency to be seated at the table “You can’t make an omelette wait”, and as we moved into the kitchen where warmed plates were waiting, the omelette was turned out on to a large serving platter and then simply divided between each plate.
Wine glasses filled, chunks of fresh baguette distributed and a religiously quiet table as we each picked up our fork and cut our first mouthful of this amazing truffle soufflé omelette.
An evening in Normandy, a privilege.
photo of the truffles with thanks to google images