A SAINT VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER
Saint Valentine, the Saint associated with marriage and love, has a very special place in the hearts of the people of Roquemaure, and small town in the Vaucluse region of Provence, France. In 1868 the town welcomed the Saint’s relics into their town in an effort to cure their terribly blight infested vineyards. Every year since the arrival of the holy relics, the town holds a huge festival, starting on the Saint’s feast day of February 14 and lasting three days. Couples promenade through the town square in 19th century attire, and there is much period dancing and live music, all dedicated to the theme of love. Kids play traditional 19th century games, and basket makers set up their stalls to demonstrate their craft. Barrel organs are on every street corner, and horse drawn carriages carry residents and tourists,dressed head to toe in the fashions of St. Valentine’s Day, through the town. This area now produces some of Provence’s best red wine and much of it is consumed during this cold weather, outdoor festival.
The St. Valentine’s festival also coincides with the black truffle season in the Vaucluse, where truffle hunters spend hours in the chilly Provence woods with their truffle hunting pigs or dogs, searching for these expensive prized tubers. Truffles have always been a culinary symbol of romance and an offering of love.
Black truffles are prepared simply so their beautiful perfume is not masked by competing flavors. In the Vaucluse shaving truffles over boiled potatoes drizzled with olive oil is a standard treatment, so is shaving them onto creamy scrambled eggs. But my favorite is a dish of egg pasta, tossed simply with butter and fine Provencal olive oil and topped with thin shavings of the Vaucluse truffle. If you really want to woo your lover, Provence style, try this simple but extravagant recipe.
Tagliatelle with Black Truffles, Vaucluse Style
½ pound fresh tagliatelle pasta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, from Provence, if possible
A few sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves lightly chopped
1 ½ to 2 ounces fresh black truffle
Freshly ground black pepper
Put up a pot of pasta cooking water and bring it to a boil. Season it with a generous amount of salt.
Warm a pasta serving bowl and have it close at hand.
Drop the tagliatelle into the water and cook until just tender. The fresher the pasta the shorter the cooking time. Just made egg pasta can take as little as a minute. Store bought, fresh pasta tends to be slightly firmer and might take about 3 minutes. When tender, drain the pasta, leaving a little water clinging to it, and pour it into the serving bowl. Add the butter and olive oil, the parsley, a few big grindings of black pepper, and a pinch of salt, and toss until the pasta is well coated. With a vegetable scraper or a truffle shaver, shave the black truffle over the top. Serve right away.
By Erica De Mane, chef and cookbook writer