I wouldn’t call the truffle particular to Catalunya although the local mushroom hunters take great pride in rooting them out of the wilderness each fall, and you see them showing up in many local dishes. The Italians would likely argue for its provenance–for the white variety at least–which is found in the Piedmont region where I sought it out, one fall, over the Thanksgiving weekend. Each fall, the Slow Food organization sets up their annual food festival in the city of Alba to celebrate, among other local delights, the famous white truffle though workshops, tastings, and green markets. Given that I would be missing the Thanksgiving celebration back home, I decided to at least keep food in first place that weekend, and the festival’s focus on excellent food made that an indulgent reality.
Back in Barcelona, I slowly become aware of how ubiquitous truffles are, albeit generally only the black variety since the white truffle is not as easily found outside the Alba area and thus is extremely expensive. I see it most often in the of the most well-known local dishes, canelones, a Catalan variation of the Italian dish that most Americans are already familiar with. Here they are filled with roasted chicken, lamb or beef and the truffle is laced into the buttery, creamy sauce that covers the dish. Yet, the purists at Tapas 24 celebrate the truffle with in a much more straightforward way, in a dish which take some of the simplest and most highly regarded ingredients of Spanish cuisine and melds them together into one sublime bite. A glorified grilled cheese, this tapa is made with good quality slices of cured ham known here as jamon, aged Manchego cheese, which we call curado (as opposed to the lighter semi-curado), and black truffle shavings pressed between two simple slices of rustic white bread with the crusts cut off. Given its write up in every guidebook and blog imaginable, Tapas 24 is most often overrun with tourists and lines out the door. I say skip the lines, walk Barcelona’s beautiful streets, and make this sandwich for yourself. If you can stand to share, halve them into triangles and serve them para picar (as finger food) at your next party.
Truffled Jamon Sandwiches
4 slices country white bread
4 slices cured ham
2 slices Manchego cheese, curado
1 small fresh or frozen black truffle, shaved
2 tablespoons salted butter
To make each sandwich, place a slice of cheese on the bread, top with a small amount of truffle shavings, and cover with two slices of jamon. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat until melted. Add the sandwiches and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until bread is golden brown. Remove from pan, allow to cool slightly, and slice into triangles.