Guglielmo and I love to talk about all things truffles. Guglielmo always says the difference between French cooking and Italian cooking is that “French cooking is all about the chef and technique. Italian cooking is all about the freshest ingredients and your mother. In his case, his Sicilian grandmother who taught him how to cook.” Before Guglielmo met me, his truffle experiences were about gastronomic bliss followed shortly thereafter by economic havoc!
My humble beginnings are very near Guglielmo’s Sicilian roots. I was born in Mazara del Vallo, which has the largest and most productive fishing fleet in Italy. To say that the seafood is fresh in Sicily is an understatement. Maybe that’s why I love my salmon and cod dog food and love to eat all things from the sea? In restaurants, and when eating at people’s homes, everyone brings out the fish to show you the eye to prove it is fresh! Guglielmo’s has lots of great Sicilian cooking, eating, traveling, and other stories about his and my roots that he is more than willing to share.
One story is about searching for his people on his first trip to Sicily and finding a cookie shop that had cookies like his grandmother used to make. It was near a duomo (cathedral) that eventually led to finding his ancestors’ birth certificates and making friends with villagers despite a vendetta towards a distant relative. (One must exercise caution in this land that was inhabited by many invaders but conquered by none.) He has stories about the special Sicilian sausage bread his nonna (maternal grandmother) used to make for after Christmas Eve midnight mass that was indigenous to his people’s village in Cattolica Eraclea. She taught him how to make sausage (select the meats, grind it up, mix in spices, stuff it into intestines and bread.) The sausage was baked into the bread and served with scrambled eggs. Then there is the eights course truffle meal he made when I was seven months old from the truffles we found together in Oregon and California. So many delicious memories!
Let me tell you about my friend, and incredible maestro, Michelin Star-awarded, Chef Ken Frank at La Toque Restaurant. This guy is amazing on so many levels, not the least of which is he lets Zara and me hangout, meet/greet people, and nosh incredible truffle delights at Bank Café and Bar. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve nabbed some of his black truffle toast open-faced sandwiches with tuber melanosporum shaved like negro shingles, over his secret bread that is slathered with amazing butter. It makes me want to howl in appreciation for Chef Ken and my great nose sniffing out the goods.
La Toque’s Black Truffle Sandwich
- 2 slices pain de mie (or any good ol’ white bread)
- 50 grams fresh black truffle
- Sweet butter (soft)
- Sea salt
Butter both sides of both slices of bread generously and fill the sandwich with sliced fresh truffle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48-72 hours, allowing the truffle perfume to fully permeate the sandwich.
When ready to serve, unwrap the sandwich, open it and season the truffle with a little sea salt. Put it back together and toast under the broiler, turning a few times until the bread is a golden brown and the truffles inside are nice and hot. Cut in quarters and share—or don’t.
If you think that sounds yummy, well, two slices of bread is even better. You’ve got to try it!
“Mamma mia pensare a quel panino al tartufo mi ha davvero infiammato per portare allo chef Ken più tuber melanosporum. Wow! Che chef! Che panino!” You’ll have to excuse me, Italian is my prima language; when I get excited I revert to my truffle hunting language.
In English, what I said was “Mamma mia thinking about that truffle sandwich really fires me up to bring Chef Ken more tuber melanosporum. Wow! What a chef! What a sandwich!”
I really love that guy. For a human he’s got a great nose and flair for truffles, albeit Guglielmo tells me that Chef Ken knows how to pair wines with truffles. He won’t let me drink since he knows grapes are bad for dogs, but I’ve snagged a few grapes at truffle orchards near vineyards, or maybe that was deer droppings?
Please follow my friend Chef Ken Frank, Instagram: @latoquerestaurant, see him at the next Napa Truffle Festival, and most importantly eat his truffle gastronomic delights. If you can’t rush down there right now then order some dog found truffles and follow Chef Ken’s recipes to bring you into truffle-infused bliss.
My motto: “Hanno sempre una zampa in avanti… (Always have one paw forward…)”