Monday, May 09, 2011

Live and Learn

I guess it's why I'm not religious in the strict sense of the word. Sure, I have my beliefs, though they're more a not-very-well-thought-out accumulation of the experiences and relationships I've had thus far. But dogma has never really worked for me, since it seems as soon as I attempt to neatly package anything up and seal it with tape, I'll find something lurking under the couch that blows my neatly organized system all to heck.

The same goes for recipes. Sure, I've got my classics, but they're always getting tweaked and fiddled with to see if maybe they can be made just a teensy, eensy bit better.

It happened the other day when I had lunch at Taste Unique, Stefania Toscano's Italian take-out diner on SE Division, which qualifies as my favorite Italian restaurant in Portland even though it only seats eight people. I'd heard her pasta carbonara (left, above) was astonishingly luscious, and since it's one of my family's favorite go-to recipes, I had to try her version.

Now, my carbonara is based on a Marcella Hazan recipe that uses whole eggs supplemented with egg yolks, along with a glug or so of white wine in the sauce. Not so Stefania's. As a matter of fact, she looked shocked when I asked if she used whole eggs, replying with an emphatic "No!" adding that she also considers cream a no-no. Her pasta is bathed in a rich sauce made with yolks and yolks alone.

So of course I came home and whipped up a yolks-only version of my own, and it gave the old recipe a run for its money, especially with Dave's home-smoked bacon. Though using six eggs yolks for a pound of pasta made the Scrooge in me wince, not to mention what to do with that many whites.

It's all about figuring out what works for you. Which is a pretty good metaphor for living your life, don't you think?

Extra-Rich Pasta Carbonara

1 lb. pasta
6 egg yolks
1/2 c. parmesan, grated, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 lb. bacon
1 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook till al dente. While pasta is cooking, fry bacon until fat renders. Add garlic and sauté briefly but do not brown. Remove from heat. Separate egg yolks into a small mixing bowl and whip briefly with a fork till smooth. Add parmesan and stir to combine. Drain pasta and place in serving dish. Pour egg mixture over the top and toss. Add bacon mixture and stir. Sprinkle lightly with parsley and a bit of parmesan. Serve.


dds said...

How about carbonara for dinner and lemon meringue pie for dessert? Oh wait, the lemon curd part would take more yolks. Um, meringue cookies?

So funny that I too went home and made carbonara the next day...but I only dumbed it down (whole eggs + yolk supplement)...just couldn't bring myself to go all the way. Was out of pancetta, too, but with good parm, a toothsome pasta and a big splash of pasta water it was creamy and fantastic.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Right with you, D! I had the meringue thought, too, but don't have the pastry bag with the tip that makes it all ridgy and wavy. Dave did end up using some for waffles, so that helped. I scrambled the rest with a farm egg and cheddar. Good enough!

JerryC said...

CB -- Dissolve the parm in a 3/4+ cup hot pasta water before adding it to the eggs yolks and you'll vault over the top of the carbonara creaminess scale.

As for the whites; Ubu doesn't mind if they are runny, firm or rubbery...

Kathleen Bauer said...

Jerry, I will be trying that with the next batch!