Most people think of truffles as “Those chocolate things, right?” If you’re particularly sophisticated, food-wise, you might know of truffles as “those mushrooms dug out of the ground using pigs.” That may be true, but it doesn’t help you know what to say when the waiter at that snooty, high-class restaurant comes over to you with a knob thing and a grater, asking if you’d like some shaved who-knows-what on your $40 mac and cheese.
Here’s what you need to know: truffles are a ground mushroom that are found, yes, using a certain species of pig with the ability to smell and dig out the truffles from the ground. There are several varieties of truffles, but the most popular ones are simply referred to as “black” or “white” truffles. Truffles are one of the most expensive ingredients in the world, which is why they are usually shaved in extremely small quantities onto dishes. They have a powerful, woody taste and are most commonly served with pastas and salads, or under the skins of certain meats. Truffles can also be made into other products such as truffle oil, truffle butter and even certain cheeses.
So in answer to the earlier question: if you have the option to put some expensive fungi in your gourmet mac and cheese, take advantage of this opportunity and try it. Otherwise next time, you might have to rent your own pig and look for them yourself!