I hate when I stash a recipe aside for a rainy day, thinking it’ll be a good, involved post somewhere down the road. Then when it’s finally time to write said post, I’m like “meh, it was a while ago and I can’t really be bothered.”
But this little amuse bouche, despite having been prepared and eaten almost a full month ago, can’t be left by the wayside with nothing but good intentions and regret. For one, it was too expensive. Possibly the most expensive food I’ve ever created. Fortunately, much of it was gifted to me, so I didn’t have to sell the dog into slavery or give handjobs to lonely politicians or anything unbecoming of a lady.
Second, it was too impressive. It was directly plagiarized from the Alinea cookbook, and when I had it at the restaurant itself, it was life-changing. Both times (I’m a lucky bitch).
Third, it turned out perfectly. Absolutely perfectly. Which means it was life-changing at my house, too. And at my house, instead of getting a single bite, we just stood around the counter in the kitchen and snacked on them until we were so overcome with culinary emotion that we had to take a break and watch How I Met Your Mother just to regain equilibrium.
Obviously I’m talking about the storied Black Truffle Explosion.
It’s a delicate, homemade raviolo that you eat in a single bite. Upon biting into the raviolo, liquid black truffle stock gushes into every nook and cranny of your mouth. You have to keep your mouth tightly sealed around the pasta, or it will shoot out from between your lips, wasting liquid gold. I’d never seen this happen until the second one Chris ate at our counter. He had gotten careless and bit down without sealing his lips. Squirted straight across the room, shocking him. Lesson learned. One doesn’t waste black truffle stock without a certain respect for loss.
With the exception of the contents being black truffle, this may all sound semi-mundane to some of you. I mean, yaaaay ravioli, right? Wrong.
First, think about the sheer mechanics of having a thin, stock-like liquid inside a raviolo. Have you ever seen it? No, because ravioli filling has to be solid enough to sit on a sheet of pasta while the second sheet is sealed around it. Ricotta makes a good consistency for ravioli filling. Chicken broth, for example, would be impossible to seal. It would run all over immediately.
But Chef Achatz has gotten around this by manipulating the viscosity of the liquid temporarily–just long enough to form the pasta. And it’s so laughably simple that it’ll shock you. Gelatin. That’s right, Bill Cosby. Good ol’ J-E-L-L-O. Except for not, you know, because cherry flavored truffle ravioli would be utterly vomitous.
Instead, a high-strength sheet gelatin is used. I’m not going to bore you with the properties of sheet versus powdered gelatin. They’re different in strength and procedure, to say the least. Just know that we used sheet for this trick. Actually, here’s a picture of all the stuff I used for the filling:
It’s butter, sea salt, black truffle, black truffle juice, sheet gelatin, black truffle oil, and a very cool sphere mold that had to be ordered online and cost so much that I’m ashamed to discuss it. I didn’t buy it for myself, though, I promise. I did buy the black truffle juice, after waffling on the purchase for 6 full months. It’s an incredibly cool ingredient. It’s somehow trufflier than truffle itself, and amazingly versatile. I may save up and buy another can for Thanksgiving this year. I also may buy a can and start dabbing it behind my ears like perfume. I’d attract a following, though it might only be chefs and pigs following me. The pied piper of…ham.
Those ingredients all got whisked together, almost like a buerre blanc, then poured into the mold and placed in the refrigerator for a few hours to set. They came out beautifully, with the butter and oil emulsion settling to the bottom, and the truffled out fluid settling to the top.
They looked eerily like fishing floats. Delicious fishing floats. The kind you’d use to catch that magic, wish-granting fish from The Fisherman and His Wife. And you’d have to use one of your wishes to get a new can of truffle stock so you could make some more fishing floats for your own damned self.
Now, I decided to eschew the pursuits of magic fish in favor of creating the raviolo. I’m selfish, what can I say.
The recipe in the book required things like shitloads of egg yolks and very specific kneading and resting times. I’ve made pasta plenty of times, and was pretty confident I could go with my tried and true pasta dough and still have a flexible, strong pasta that would be delicate to the tooth but keep a stronghold on the filling. So I went rogue. It’s a regular, 1/2 semolina, 1/2 AP flour pasta dough with whole eggs. I ran it through the KitchenAid pasta roller and placed the little fishing floats on top.
Another sheet of pasta went on top, then I cut and sealed the ravioli using a small, round biscuit cutter. This is the trixy part. When that fishing float turns back into a beautiful, hot liquid from its current state of rubbery ball, any tiny pinprick in the pasta dough will release the truffle emulsion into the pasta water. That’s a pretty effing expensive mistake. One that I couldn’t make, no matter what. So I spent extra time and attention making sure the seals were perfect and sturdy, and that there weren’t excessive air pockets in the ravioli that would expand and burst the dough. It was painstaking, but worth it.
When they were all sealed and ready to go, I slipped them into the boiling, salted water to cook. They only took a couple of minutes, since fresh pasta takes no time to cook. It’s a damned good thing, too, because I had to seriously focus on my pelvic floor to make sure I didn’t pee my pants in anxiety and anticipation. I stared at the water, searching for any sign of a burst raviolo. Nothing. They all stayed sealed. So great. And the insides became a hot, happy truffle stock awash in melted butter and sea salt.
Serving them is simple. A sliver of black truffle, a tiny bauble of parmaggiano reggiano, and a sliver of sauteed romaine lettuce rested on top of each raviolo. Ooh, and about three additional flakes of salt.
Insert into your mouth, close your lips, and maintain embouchure. Pop with your tongue and allow the deluge of truffle to wash down your throat. Easy peasy.
And guaranteed to be the best thing that has ever burst in your mouth. I am more than willing to swear on it. I’m full of fellatio jokes right now, but I’m also full of reverence for the Black Truffle Explosion, so I’m going to keep my puerility to myself. And my ravioli, unless you’re a magic, wish-granting fish. Then we maybe can talk.