The Lagotto Romagnolo is a breed of dog that comes from the Romagna sub-region of Italy. The name means “lake dog from Romagna,” coming from the Italian word lago, lake. Its traditional function is a gundog, specifically a water retriever. However, it is often used to hunt for truffles. Lagotto have been hunting dogs for at least three thousand years, and truffle dogs for maybe a hundred years, if that.
Imagine my surprise when I saw these adorable faces at The Blackberry Farm, an upscale hotel and resort adjacent to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The Farm recently started a new initiative to breed Lagottos on property under the supervision of Mr. Jim Sanford, a professional elephant trainer of many years.
These Lagottos were carefully flown in from Italy and given the finest southern hospitality. They receive 24-hour care, heated kennels, and lots of training time among the crisp mountain air. When I arrived at the Farm, a 2-3 weeks old young litter was being nurtured in a quiet room with hay stack and heated lamps.
Training for these Lagottos starts on day 1. The house broken puppies are sold for $6,000, and ones without training for only $3,000. All the puppies from the Blackberry Farm have found good residences, mostly in celebrity homes and in Beverly Hills.
The Farm currently sources black truffles from the neighboring farm of Tom Michaels. Upon finding this treasure trove of truffles, he brought them to the kitchen at Blackberry Farm where they were immediately offered at that evening’s dinner service. So began the relationship with Dr. Michaels, which has lead to the planting of Blackberry Farm’s own truffle orchard.
So on future visits to Blackberry Farm, you may just have the opportunity to harvest your own truffle and have it shaved for you at dinner that very night…and on your farm eggs in the morning!
And if you are lucky, you may even be able to take a Lagotto Romagnolo puppy home.
After you taste the Chicken and Dumplings at the Blackberry Farm, you won’t want to eat your mom’s recipe again. Hand made pasta, shaved black truffles and melt into your mouth roasted guinea are just few of the ingredients that make this recipe so special. It is served at The Barn restaurant located at the resort, which is run by award winning chefs.
Here’s the recipe for guinea (or chicken) and dumplings…You will want to eat this all winter long!
2lbs Guinea Hen Leg quarters
¼ C sugar
20 sprigs thyme
2qt chicken fat (can substitute duck fat)
Combine salt, sugar and thyme sprigs. Coat chicken leg quarters in mixture and place on a wire rack and allow to cure overnight. Next, rinse mixture off of chicken and pat dry. Place chicken into a half 4-inch hotel pan and cover with chicken fat. Place in a 250 F oven and cook until tender (approximately 2-3 hours). Remove chicken from pan, and when cool enough to handle pick the meat from the bone and discard skin and bones. Reserve chicken.
1 lb. Idaho Potatoes
2 Eggs (beaten)
1 cup Flour (approximately)
2qt +1C Chicken Stock
1T Chicken fat (can substitute duck fat)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to 148 F and poach eggs in their shell for 55 minutes and reserve.
Bake potatoes in 350 degree oven until tender. Rice potatoes through a food mill and allow potatoes to cool slightly, but still warm. Fold in egg, 2 teaspoons of salt, and truffle. Add flour gradually until mixture comes together and is not wet. Roll mixture into cylindrical shapes and cut desired length.
In a sauce pot over medium high heat bring 2 quarts of salted water and to a simmer. Blanch gnocchi in until they float. Next, shock in ice water and reserve.
In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, heat chicken fat until shimmering. Place gnocchi in pan and toast until golden brown, add reserved chicken and 1 cup of chicken stock. Finish by adding chives and seasoning with salt and black pepper. Crack egg over the top.