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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Carbonara, part 2--With Recipe!

Well, the Carbonara came out pretty nicely. We went to HEB Central Market here in Houston, which is without a doubt the most amazing supermarket I’ve ever been to. The place is vast—occupying an entire shopping center by itself—and the selection is marvelous. There were fruit of every imaginable variety, potatoes both large and fingerling in 10 or so varieties (including purple!), and a selection of olive oils, vinegars, and pastas to rival the best of Italian specialty stores.
I was going to just use basic applewood bacon, which I know my girlfriend’s father is fond of, but at the deli counter they had some imported Italian pancetta that looked absolutely marvelous, so I decided I might as well get it.
Now, as Anne can tell you, I can never leave any recipe well enough alone,
so I made some alterations. Firstly and most basically, I’ve got something of an instinctive aversion to spaghetti. Now, I know that’s silly—it’s probably the classic Italian pasta, and the cornerstone of a lot of great dishes, but too many bad iterations of spaghetti and red sauce through my childhood have lead me to think of it as something limp and dull, so I always reach for something else when I cook. In this case, I went for some fusili lunghi—the long spiral ones that look a bit like a telephone cord. They added some nice texture and looked interesting on the plate.
Next, I felt like more veggies were in order, so besides some peas that we added straight into the pasta, I came up with an idea for us veggie-eaters: once I’d crisped the pancetta, I cooked mushrooms, onions, and garlic slices in the pan until caramelized, then deglazed the pan with beer at the last moment.
No pictures I’m afraid—her camera wasn’t working—but I think you’ll enjoy it.
Colin’s Carbonara (Serves 4)
¾ to 1 pound fusili lunghi
1/3rd to ½ pound pancetta (or bacon), thickly sliced
Half of one white onion
~3 cups crimini mushrooms
~3 cups peas
~1/2 cup parmean cheese (adjust to taste)
3 whole eggs or egg yolks
Splash of beer (something light and flavorful but not too bitter—we used Baltika)
Black pepper, to taste (but more is better)
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt, to taste
Olive oil
1. Coarsely chop onion, chop mushrooms in half and remove stem ends, slice garlic into chips, and cut pancetta into 1 inch cubes.
2. Boil or steam peas and reserve (can be done alongside or in microwave)
3. Cook pancetta over medium-high heat in a large frying pan (probably not nonstick) in a little olive oil until crisp. If necessary, split into multiple batches, but don’t overcrowd
4. Remove pancetta. Pour off half of the fat from the pancetta (adding oil to replace if necessary) and cook mushrooms over medium-high heat until somewhat softened and darkened in color
5. At same time as mushrooms, start large pot of water to boil for pasta.
6. Once mushrooms appear mostly cooked, add garlic and onions, and increase heat to high.
7. Once water comes to a boil, add pasta (takes ~12-15 minutes to cook)
8. When vegetables appear near done, pour in beer to deglaze and allow to cook off.
9. When pasta is ready and beer is cooked off, drain pasta and place immediately in bowl without rinsing. Add cheese, and break eggs (or pour yolks) directly into pasta and stir vigorously until egg cooks.
10 Add black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt, and serve immediately

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