Saturday, January 19, 2013

craving carbonara....eggs, eggs, eggs!

It's shaping up to be a very eggy day here at Butter and Figs.  This morning I woke up craving pasta alla carbonara (don't ask me why), but settled for fried eggs and toast instead.  Maybe I'll œuver indulge this evening, and make my favorite eggy pasta for dinner.  The dish is so simple, yet deliciously warm and comforting.  It's a lovely solution for Saturday evening supper.  The recipe below is from one of my favorite culinary resources,  The Kitchn.  Over the years I've made several versions of this dish, but it's most popular when served, after midnight, to my last remaining revelers. Regardless of the time or place, there are never leftovers.  And, as with most of my favorite recipes, the ingredients are simple and few. The key to success is quality, not quantity.  If you can get your hands on farm fresh eggs,  good pork, and whole peppercorns, you will be in business!  If not,  you'll still have pasta alla carbonara and a very contented belly.
Image Credit: André Baranowski

Pasta Carbonara - recipe from  
serves 4-6
*notes are from butter and figs 

1 pound dry spaghetti
4 fresh large eggs  -  *I prefer to use only the egg yolk, if you do this add 2 eggs to make 6 yolks
8 ounces **guanciale, pancetta or slab bacon, cubed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino
Freshly cracked black pepper
Sea salt

**Italian for cheek - essentially pork jowls - sweeter than bacon ...and you can make your own!  See below.
You can also purchase quality guanciale from an Italian butcher,  or order it online from a good salumeria such as Olli's .

Bring about 6 quarts of generously salted water (it should taste like the ocean) to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the guanciale and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until the meat is crispy and golden and has rendered its fat. Turn off the heat.

In a small bowl whisk the eggs and the cheeses until well-combined.

When the pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup of the water, then drain.

Return the guanciale pan to medium heat, and add half of the reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss in the spaghetti and agitate the pan over the heat for a few seconds until the bubbling subsides. Much of the water will evaporate

Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg mixture and stirring quickly until the eggs thicken. The residual heat will cook the eggs but work quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it out with a little bit more of the reserved pasta water.

Season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper. (Taste for seasoning: depending on the kind of pork used, it may not need any salt.)

Divide the pasta into bowls and serve immediately.

(adapted from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie)
Image courtesy of Olli Salumeria
4-5 lb. pork cheek
1 c. kosher salt
2/3 c. sugar
6 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed with the flat side of a knife
30 black peppercorns, cracked with the flat side of a knife
2 large bunches thyme

Rinse and pat the jowl dry.  Trim any stray tissue, glands and extra fat.
Combine remaining (dry cure) ingredients in a bowl.
Place the jowl in a FoodSaver or other vacuum seal bag (or use a plastic storage bag).  Pour the dry cure ingredients over, rubbing thoroughly into the meat.  Seal the bag.  Refrigerate until the jowl feels stiff throughout, 4-6 days, turning the package every other day.
Remove meat from the bag.  Rinse well with cold water.  Pat dry.
Poke a hole in a corner of the meat (though not too close to the edge) and slip a long piece of butcher’s string though it.
Hang in a cool, dry place.  Keep hanging until “completely stiff to the touch but not hard.”  For a slightly smaller cheek, Ruhlman says this should take from 1 to 3 weeks, depending upon humidity and temperature.

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