Monday, August 2, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

The trick to making this dish properly is to keep the eggs creamy while still cooking them sufficiently. I find that deglazing the skillet with a little pasta waster tempers the heat just the right amount.

(serves two adults and two children)

½ lb. bacon
1 medium onion
2 oz. parmesan cheese (to make about 1 cup grated)
½ bunch fresh parsley
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¼ cup heavy cream
1 lb. thick spaghetti

1. Bring a large pot of salted pasta water to a boil.

2. Dice the bacon and onion. Grate the cheese, chop the parsley, and combine. seasoning with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and cream.

3. In a heavy skillet large enough to hold the pasta, cook the bacon over medium heat until barely crisp, about 10–12 minutes .Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1–2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, reserving the rest. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the onions. If the skillet seems dry, add back more bacon fat.

4. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. After reserving some of the pasta water, drain the spaghetti.

5. Remove the onions from the heat. Using two or three tablespoons of the pasta water, deglaze the skillet, scraping the bottom to dissolve the stuck-on bits. Add the drained pasta and toss to combine. 

6. Add the egg mixture and toss to coat the pasta. Add the bacon and the cheese mixture. Continue tossing until thoroughly combined.

• Use good-quality bacon that’s not too fatty or salty. Otherwise, pour off most of the rendered fat before adding the onion.

• I keep bacon in the freezer, which means that I can use part of a package as I need it. Also, frozen bacon is easier to chop than rubbery refrigerated bacon. I cut off what I need while the bacon is still frozen and let the slices separate by themselves as they cook in the pan.

• There are so few ingredients in this dish that you can’t hide bad cheese. The best Parmesan is imported Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is pricey; but even at sixteen dollars a pound, two ounces sets you back just two dollars.

• Because of the danger of salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that egg yolks be cooked thoroughly until firm. Firmly cooked yolks, however, are antithetical to a good carbonara. If you’re concerned about salmonella, you can keep the flame on underneath the skillet as you add the eggs.

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