Oregon truffles have begun coming in and none too soon either. Some years they arrive in time to grace our Thanksgiving table. Some years we’re just glad to see them come in at all.
These precious babies were a real surprise for me upon arriving in Oregon in December of 2002. On my first visit to one of my favorite food markets, I spied two glass custard dishes in the produce cooler with strange shaped “things”. My mind was saying, “Could these be truffles in the supermarket?” I leaned over to take a whiff and was nearly swept off my feet by their earthy, intoxicating perfume. Then my eyes spotted the signs — “White Truffles- $169/pound and Black Truffles-$199/pound. Oh well, maybe someday.
Vic and I, along with our German Shepherd, Sam, and our two terriers, Inga and Mikki were spending the whole winter at the Marriot Residence Inn while selling our home in Baltimore and buying our new one here. The hotel room kitchen felt like a toy kitchen compared to what we’re used to cooking in. Truffles would have to wait until next year.
Even though the sticker price of truffles was a shocker, I was pleased to learn that a single golf ball-sized truffle would set us back only about $12 (weighed without the plastic bag, of course).
Our new Oregon friends, knowing what foodies we were, enlightened us on where to find the areas best restaurants specializing in local bounty. One of them was the Joel Palmer House in nearby Dayton. Jack Czarnecki and his wife, Heidi, bought the historic Joel Palmer House in 1996 to open a restaurant featuring a menu heavily based on local mushrooms and truffles which they forage for themselves. This is serious food here. As a matter of fact, Jack Czarnecki and his son, Chris, have begun making and bottling their own Oregon White Truffle Oil, the first such product to be made in the US. If you click on the previous link, be sure to watch the short video of Adam Gertler from Food Network searching for truffles with Jack and Chris. This is definitely a major culinary destination when you visit the Willamette Valley.
- 1/2 cup (120 ml.) kosher salt (or 1/4 cup if using table salt)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml.) sugar
- 1 3 pound (1.4 kg.) organic, free-range chicken
- 1 head garlic, halved horizontally
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 7 tablespoons (105 ml.)butter
- 1 black truffle, very thinly sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) canola oil
- 2 pounds (908 gr.) potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) canned truffle juice (optional)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) chicken stock
- Dissolve the salt and sugar in 4 cups ( 960 ml.) water. Add the chicken and soak for 1-2 hours at room temperature. (If the weather and/or your kitchen is very hot, refrigerate.) I usually put the bird and brine in a heavy seal-able plastic bag, remove as much of the air as possible and place the whole thing in a large bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 450° F (232° C). Drain and pat the chicken dry. Place the thyme, garlic, and 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of the butter in the cavity. Loosen the skin of the chicken from the meat by sliding your fingers under it. (See photos for my technique using an enameled blunt-ended chopstick.) Carefully slide the truffle slices between the skin and the meat, covering as much of the chicken as possible. Truss the chicken and season it with salt and pepper.
- Combine the oil and 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of the butter in a heavy, non-stick frying pan large enough to hold the whole chicken. When the oil and butter are hot, carefully brown the chicken on the breasts and leg quarters. The easiest method for me is to don a pair of vinyl gloves and hold the bird in place, being careful not to burn myself (see photos). This will take about 5 minutes per side.
- Place the chicken in the center of a lightly oiled oven-proof skillet. (I use a large cast iron pan.) Surround the chicken with the potatoes and dot with the remaining butter. I had the good fortune to have saved the rendered duck fat from making the Duck Legs Braised in Pinot Noir so I used that instead of more butter. Roast for about 35-45 minutes, basting from time to time with the pan juices, until the chicken is nicely browned and a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 155° F (68° C).
- Remove the bird to a carving board and let rest while finishing up with the sauce. Remove the potatoes as well and keep warm. Drain the pan, leaving only a small amount of fat, reserving the fat removed. Return the pan to high heat on the stove and stir in the truffle juice (if using) and the chicken stock. Quickly scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the stuck bits and incorporate them into the sauce. Whisk in a tablespoon or two (15 or 30 ml.) of the reserved fat.
- Carve the chicken and place on a platter with the potatoes, and spoon the sauce over all.
Vic’s mom, Pranee, taught us how to carve a chicken like you see on the platter.
- Cut off both leg quarters and then the wings.
- Carefully cut off each breast half, place flat on the carving board and slice into serving pieces.
We served this with some slow-baked tomatoes which you can see on the platter. Simply halve the tomatoes and place on an oven-safe pan. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper and drizzle with some good olive oil. Roast in a 275° F (135° C) oven for about 3 hours. I added some fresh grated Parmesan cheese during the last 15 minutes or so.
We enjoyed this meal with an Acrobat 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir from King Estate.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities