We recently decided to dust off our copy of Paul Bocuse: the Complete Recipes and try a classic we've heard a lot about over the years--Chef Bocuse's famous Black Truffle Soup.
A little background on why this recipe is so famous. When Chef Bocuse was awarded the French Legion of Honor by French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1975, he was invited to a ceremony at the Elysee Palace to celebrate the award. He created a truffle soup to be served on the occasion, and named it after the the the President--"Soupe aux Truffes Noires V.G.E." Containing fresh black truffles and foie gras, and covered in puff pastry, a star was born. He has served the soup at his 3 Michelin-starred restaurant L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges for the last 41 years.
The recipe itself is easy enough, and even a beginner home cook can probably muddle their way through with little problem.
4 tbsp. white vermouth (preferably Noilly Prat)
3 cups of strong, good quality, chicken stock
3 1/2 oz of fresh black truffle
7 ounces of cooked foie gras
3 ounces of very finely chopped carrot, onion, celery (mirepoix) mixed together in equal proportions
1 ounce of button mushrooms, finely chopped
3 1/2 ounces of cooked chicken breast, sliced
4 disks of puff pastry
2 egg yolks
Salt and Pepper to taste
Saute the mirepoix and button mushrooms in butter until soft. Evenly split the vermouth and chicken stock between 4 ovenproof bowls. Thinly slice the black truffle and chicken breast, and dice the foie gras. Divide evenly between the bowls, along with the mirepoix and mushroom mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Seal each bowl with the puff pastry and brush the top with an egg yolk wash. Place in a pre-heated oven set to 450 degrees and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown on top.
There's no denying that when the soup emerges from the oven, it is a thing of beauty. Golden brown crust, and steaming hot. And, it was delicious. There were notes of truffle, the fatty goodness of foie gras, and the simple unctuousness that only pastry soaked in a rich broth can bring. It was good. It was even bordering on really good. But it unfortunately wasn't great. While it contains two of the world's most luxurious ingredients, it seemed to mute, rather than heighten the flavors of each.
At the end of our experience, Natalie and I looked at each other and agreed we had just enjoyed a really nice chicken and vegetable soup. Sure, it was good. But it wasn't transcendent. And, unfortunately, we didn't think it lived up to the hype everyone ascribes to it.