In the fungal kingdom, mushrooms and truffles are best described as cousins. Related, but different.
The primary difference is that mushrooms grow above the ground, and truffles grow below. There are numerous varieties of mushrooms, but only two varieties of truffles. Mushrooms can adapt to many different conditions, soils, temperatures and moisture, whereas truffles are extremely finicky about where they grow, and it takes experts with highly trained animals (usually pigs or dogs) to locate them during their short growing season.
It’s the rarity of truffles that make them so expensive. So are they worth the price? The good news is that the flavor of truffles is so intense, it takes very little to impart their renowned, earthy, robust flavor. A couple of shavings into a dish, or infusing a few drops of truffle oil into a recipe will bring on intense flavor. Thus, when taking account the expense, good quality truffles or truffle oil will last a long time. Mushrooms on the other hand, are generally quite mild and will seldom overpower a dish. Many varieties can be eaten on their own.
Here’s Mister Alfresco’s favorite truffle butter recipe:
- 1 lb good quality, unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 3 tsp truffle oil
- French sea salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients with a blender at lowest speed. Wrap in the shape of a log in cling film and chill until ready to use. Great on steaks, steamed vegetables, and risotto.