The Hunter & The Hunted

Pairing Krug with Truffles: The Chef’s View

Chef Arnaud Lallement of L'Assiette Champenoise professes his love for Krug and white truffles
By Arnaud Lallement

For me, great cuisines, such as French, require tremendous time and effort in selecting the best ingredients and the best elements. French cuisine historically happens to be the one that has always shared its culinary creations and techniques with the world at a very early stage – and it is very much respected for that. It is a grand and noble cuisine. In that, the great traditions of French cuisine share the same traits as that of Krug champagne.

Just as Krug has followed a timeline of ancestry, cooking has always been in my family. We should never forget our roots, where we come from. It’s a story that has a parallel to Krug, as they have never compromised on the vision of their ancestor, which was an immense, almost crazy obsession with quality.

For me, truffles and Krug share many natural affinities. Like many chefs, I follow the truffle season. For white truffles from Alba, we normally start early November until December. As for the winter black truffles, the season is from mid-December until early March. I normally do around 70 kilos of black truffle just from mid-December to mid-February, which is when I close my restaurant briefly.

I wouldn’t say I have a preference as to which truffle I prefer to use, as each type brings me something very distinct. With the white truffle it is the aroma that comes first: it is very strong and enjoyable to work with. I simply have it shaved on a very simple dish at the last moment, when it will impart its unique aroma to the dish prepared. The black truffle is not as powerful but what I appreciate about it is its earthy, soil notes. It literally is quite “down to earth” in a way.

As for my preference? Well, that’s like asking me which one of the Clos is my favorite: Krug Clos du Mesnil or Krug Clos d’Ambonnay? I would have to reply that each is unique and distinctive. One is a blanc de blanc another is a blanc de noire: each one being the antithesis of the other. For a truffle it’s the same. There’s a time for white truffles and there is a time for black ones. Isn’t there a time for each of the Krug Clos also?

Equally, each truffle has a special cooking or preparation technique, not unlike the different Krug champagnes. For black truffles I might want to serve them raw, finely shaved over a dish, or cooked, or even mashed, crystallised, to obtain a very thin and elegant purée. While for the white truffles I feel there is only one correct way: that is to shave them thinly, at the last minute, over a dish. They cannot be cooked.

Just to make a parallel: with black truffles, it’s like being with a Krug Grande Cuvée – we can work with different ingredients and blend them into a dish. Take this as an example: I would start with this very thin and elegant truffle purée I mentioned, coupled with carved cubes of black truffles in truffle jus and finally top it off with clean, thin black truffle shavings. So in the end, that is a dish that resembles the Krug Grande Cuvée – a blend of different crus, different vintages. Both the dish and the Krug Grande Cuvée are “assembled”. This is not the case with the white truffle, which you take as it is: raw, fresh and thinly shaved just like Krug creates their Clos du Mesnil and Clos d’Ambonnay – if the quality of the grapes allows for it, you simply press them and voilà! You turn it into amazing champagne.

In truth, it is really not a difficult task to match a dish with Krug Grande Cuvée: my rule over the years has always been to add to my dish a certain acidity to match Krug Grande Cuvée’s acidity. And by acidity I do not mean it in the pejorative sense that some other champagnes have. For Krug it’s more that punch, that spin, or what I like to call the “backbone” of freshness and elegance. And so, once you are able to level up your dish against that backbone of freshness (or, I should say, towards that unique character of Krug Grande Cuvée), you will obtain a perfect pairing between both. Once you get this, you have many dishes that can easily match Krug. For example a truffle sandwich with Krug Grande Cuvée or asparagus with black truffle shavings, paired with a Clos du Mesnil, or gnocchi cooked in vin jaune with truffles, that goes perfectly with a Krug Vintage 1998, as this vintage is now showing a beautiful broadness of flavors and very nice toasty notes.