Serious, easy comfort food….

Surely one of the easiest comfort foods must be a baked potato. I don’t mean just any old baked potato. It has to be one that has never had aluminum foil mentioned in the same room with it, rubbed with oil, popped into the oven at about 325°F until the well-scrubbed skin is almost crisp.

Pulled from the oven, x-ed on top and smushed open, given a minute or two for steam to escape, just a tad of butter added–it’s so good!  Probably, in my estimation, the ultimate comfort food–even more than mac ‘n’ cheese.

Want to make it some seriously “gourmet” comfort food?  Add some fleur de sel, or another fine specialty finishing salt. For a great account of salts of the world, you should check out Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral by Mark Bitterman. Just a pinch of a finishing salt adds a very special touch.

Some truffle oil and/or butter, or shaved truffle over the lovely baked potato is awesome.  If you go so far as the truffle butter (or not) a glass of champagne goes well with it and helps induce an aura of comfort in a serious way.

If it’s a meal you want, rather than just comfort food, add some steamed broccoli, and maybe even some cheese–some pepper jack or Havarti will melt easily over the top–just lay thin slices over the hot potato–never mind making cheese sauce here.

Sumptuous but simple.

A son goût!

Treasure from the “manager’s special” grocery cart!

Sometimes I stop at the front of the grocery store and rummage through that end-of-season, after-holiday stuff: the green and red candied cherries, and the like.  I seldom find anything that I want to bring home with me so I’m not always consistent about checking it out.  I have to thank an observant friend and neighbor for a “find” in that cart recently: truffle oil (from Tuber melanosporum, the Perigord black truffle)!  She thought I might like to know about it–and a phone call sent me scurrying off to the grocery store to check it out.

image from Wikipedia

black Perigord truffle

I was pleasantly surprised to find two  8.54-ounce cans of La Tourangelle black truffle oil languishing amongst the mounds of candied cherries, candied pineapple, and other post-Christmas goodies.

Even at the price marked before it ended up in the manager’s special cart,  I would have tried it–but at half that, it was a true no-brainer–$4 and a little change.  I came home with two cans–one to share with a fellow foodie so that we can be creative with it. So did I bring home treasure or not?

I’ve had the good fortune, in one of my previous careers, to have had experience with freshly harvested black truffles from Garland Truffles here in North Carolina, so I know that they should smell like. I was trying not to expect too much from my little bargain–a bit of the expect-the-worst pessimism, so that I might be pleasantly surprised.

It’s hard to describe the aroma of fresh black truffles–but I’ve experienced it, so I was almost expecting to be disappointed when I opened that can of truffle oil. I guess it was a bit of you-get-what-you-pay-for, and I sure didn’t pay much for this. I was hoping for that rather ethereal, woodsy, moist, warm aroma, that makes you say “Wow, what is that?”   It’s just unforgettable once you’ve experienced it.

When I popped the seal and smelled that truffle oil,  I was even more pleased with this find–the aroma was all it should have been–woodsy, earthy, moist (not damp, moldy, or musty though), and warm,  in a way that set me right out in the woods in the sunshine.

A little searching on the Internet I found the La TourangelI website--with an amazing array of artisan flavored oils.  After checking prices on the web, I realized that I really had an amazing bargain.  I’m not sure what the original price was in the grocery store, but I spent $4 and some change for the can, that had another price of a bit more than $8.  The cheapest price I found online was at least double that latter price, and I’d say that’s not overpriced given the per-pound price of Tuber melanosporum!

I love truffles, but they aren’t usually on my budget, so this is fantastic to have that much truffle oil–truly a rare treat.  I’m still thinking of things to do with it–incredible fun for a foodie!

What have I done so far?  Well, one of my favorite combinations is truffles and potatoes.  My favorite decadent treat?  Take one properly baked russet potato (no foil anywhere near it and not microwaved either), and add some truffle butter.  Okay, I didn’t have truffle butter, but this oil had a strong enough flavor that mixed with some softened butter, I came very close to the truffle butter than I had made  when I had access to fresh truffles.  Then, add some earthy, yeasty Champagne, and it is awesome.

Then, I’ve drizzled a bit over a lovely steak–yum!  And added a few drops to my omelette–and (as claimed by La Touranglle) the flavor stood up well to the heat necessary to cook  the omelette, though I’d certainly not expose the truffle oil to high heat.

What next?  Well, I’m contemplating possibilities for combining this with another of my favorite foods, oysters.  I’ve looked at recipes for truffled oyster stew, and found some possibilities…but who knows what will be next…maybe a bit added to a grilled cheese sandwich (preferable made with raclette).

It’s time for improvisation in the kitchen.  A son goût!