Chef Grant Achatz's Black Truffle Explosion was the dish he served to Henry Adaniya when trying out for the job of chef of the Evanston, Ill., restaurant Trio, where he really started to make his name. It was a dish Achatz was inspired to create at the French Laundry, while watching the staff butcher remove chilled sous vide bags filled with duck confit from the refrigerator, seeing the gelled stock melt in his warm hands while removing the duck, and noticing a fellow chef making agnolotti from an egg yolk-laden pasta dough using a recipe handed to Thomas Keller by a Piedmontese grandmother. Needless to say, Achatz got the job.
After being discontinued for a while, the dish found its way to Alinea, where Achatz's partner Nick Kokonas noted, "If he didn't make it at Alinea, someone would shoot him. Probably me." In order to make the raviolo, they buy a mountain of black truffles at the end of the year and make a stock. "Last year we had three huge stockpots going at once," Achatz explained in his Alinea cookbook, "The kitchen smelled incredible." The Black Truffle Explosion is just what you'd imagine from its name, a truffle broth soup dumpling (topped with Parmesan and romaine) — the kind of dish that you savor judiciously, the kind of dish that the folks with more money at the other table order another round of. It really is one of the best bites of food I ate all year. And for these reasons this dish made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.