Looking for a unique (and trendy!) side dish? These Parmesan Truffle Fries are tossed with truffle oil and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Are you familiar with the term agrotourism? Sometimes called ‘agritainment,’ agrotourism is essentially a niche form of tourism. And it describes both me and Laura to a “t.” We joke that our vacations are often planned around food and drink. I’m a history buff myself, so I enjoy the historical side of things, too. But food and drink definitely play a major role in our vacation planning.
A couple of years ago, we rented a car and drove around Scotland. Our trip was largely defined by whiskey (or Scotch as we call it here in the States). Same thing in Belgium. Our trip was defined by a visit to the Biscoff factory and stops at every chocolatier in Brussels. (Ok, maybe not every one…but close!) We also ate our way through about a dozen gouda and old goat cheese (seriously, that’s what it’s called) shops in Amsterdam. Well, we’ve added to that list. Earlier this summer, we took a vacation to Italy. Agrotourism in Italy is easy! After all, it’s Italy, and the food is amazing.
For this trip, we stayed in Venice and Florence, and we took a couple of day trips out of Florence to the surrounding wine country. As we were researching companies that provide day trips, we stumbled across the chance to go truffle hunting. Yes, truffle hunting. In the rolling countryside of Tuscany. For the record, this was hands down one of the coolest experiences we’ve ever had when it comes to agrotourism!
As we learned, truffle hunting is typically done very early in the morning. Like 4-5am early. We get up at that time on a normal day, but we were on vacation! So we opted for a more relaxed truffle hunt around 10am. It was just us, 3 Italian truffle hunters and their 2 dogs. But wait. Dogs? I thought pigs were used for truffle hunting? We learned that (at least in Italy) dogs are far more common than pigs when it comes to sniffing out those diamonds in the dirt. To be fair, these dogs are a specific breed, and they’re highly trained to sniff out truffles…even up to 12″ deep in the ground.
While truffles can be found year-round, the prized (and extremely valuable) white truffles are found in late Autumn. We were visiting in early Summer, so we missed white truffle season. But there were still plenty of black truffles to be found…and eaten! We took our truffles back to a nearby winery where the chef used them to create a 5-course meal where each course featured truffles. And each course had a wine pairing. Now that’s my kind of vacation! (For the record, vanilla gelato topped with truffle honey is amazing. I was skeptical at first, but I’m not skeptical anymore!)
What are truffles?
Truffles actually belong to the fungus family, and they’re found underground near tree roots. Our guides told us that farmers used to find truffles in their fields and mistook them for small potatoes. This must have been really confusing for those farmers who hadn’t planted potatoes! They would discard the truffles to the side when they were plowing their fields. Now truffles are highly valued, and white winter truffles go for about $1,500-$3,000/pound depending on the year.
What do truffles look like?
Well, they don’t look like much, and I can totally see why farmers would’ve discarded truffles. They look like a cross between a lumpy small potato and a mushroom. They certainly don’t look like something that chefs and foodies around the world clamor over!
What do truffles taste like?
In keeping with the potato/mushroom theme, truffles have a distinctly earthy taste. Some might even call it musky. It’s unique, and you have to try it to know it. Raw truffles have the slightly crunchy texture of raw potatoes, but they have a much stronger taste. A little bit of a truffle goes a long way! In fact, truffle-infused oils and honey are a common way to enjoy these delicacies.
How do you cook with truffles?
Glad you asked! After that rundown of our truffle hunting experience, it’s time to finally get around to actually cooking with truffles! If a little bit of a good thing is good, then a lotta bit of a good thing is better, right? Not so with truffles. As I mentioned above, a little truffle flavor goes a long way. Fresh truffles can be a bit difficult to find unless you’re in a large city or shop in specialty stores. Truffle-infused products, like oils and honey, are more common. In fact, these Parmesan Truffle Fries rely on truffle oil for the truffle flavor.
Parmesan Truffle Fries
Earlier this summer, I had the chance to visit the Certified Angus Beef ® brand culinary center in northeastern Ohio. While we were there, we sampled some amazing steaks, sliders and other beef dishes. But we also tasted some incredible side dishes, including these Parmesan Truffle Fries. For lunch one day, the chefs whipped up some steak sliders and served ’em with Parmesan Truffle Fries. The fries were just dumped on a piece of brown paper in the center of the table, and we all served ourselves family style. I’m pretty sure I alone ate enough of those Parmesan Truffle Fries for an entire family!
This past weekend, I decided to recreate these Parmesan Truffle Fries here at home. These fries are a boardwalk-style rather than the kind you might find at a fast food restaurant. Just a sprinkle of salt is all these fries need to be delicious. But add in some grated Parmesan and truffle oil, and you’ll be in french fry heaven!
If you’ve never tried cooking with truffles, then I hope this post inspires you to give it a shot…starting with these Parmesan Truffle Fries! Enjoy!
Love fries as much as me? Check out some of these other tasty recipes, too!