Monday, May 27, 2013

linguini carbonara

The LAM's favourite pasta dishes are Linguine Carbonara and Lasagna. We often have lasagna for dinner but I rarely cook it since the LAM makes a lasagna that puts mine to shame any day - and mine is pretty tasty!

So, the other day I went out shopping, and (sort of) forgot the time (a little). I blame this on the cursed shoe shops that kept distracting me. It was about 4-ish when I realised that I had not made any preparations for dinner. In a state of near panic, I mentally went through the list of things I could whip out quickly, with minimal ingredients, as I had no time to defrost anything.

I suppose I could have ta-bao-ed dinner, but it just did not occur to me to buy dinner since it is such a rare thing for us to do.

The thing that popped into my head was carbonara since all I needed were eggs, Parmesan and pancetta. The eggs and Parmesan I already had in the fridge, and I could pick up some pancetta on the way home. Perfect!

Normally the LAM would cook the carbonara but this time round he was busy so I made it instead.

For years, I used to make Carbonara with bacon. There were two good reasons for this. The first being that pancetta is a lot more expensive than bacon. And I thought, you know, since bacon is already so darn tasty, why spend more money to get something that is similar? But having tasted pancetta, I have to say that I would never, ever go back to using plain old bacon (pooh! pooh!) to make carbonara sauce ever again. Yes. It is THAT good.

The second reason was that until pretty recently, it was all but impossible to get pancetta in Singapore. Even today, I know only of 2 places where I can find them - Market Place by Jason's (and selected Cold Storage outlets if you are lucky) and Oh Deli along Upper East Coast Road. I am sure they are available in many more places but we live in the East and I am not tracking all the way to the butcher specialty shops in Bukit Timah to buy pancetta!

So, anyway, back to my carbonara.

I got the butcher to cut my pancetta into slices that were quite thick - 8-10mm. Because there isn't any other ingredients with any texture or bite in this dish (the only two being the linguine and the pancetta), I think it is important that the pancetta stands out. In any case, I only needed to use 2 slices of the pancetta for the LAM and myself, so at the end of the day it is not a lot, really.

To get started, I placed the linguine in a pot of boiling water that I had already salted. This was cooked according to the the instructions given by the manufacturer.

I cut the pancetta into cubes, and fried them in a frying pan with a little olive oil to crisp them up as well as to allow the pancetta to render its fat.

Once the pancetta was crispy, I placed them on some kitchen towel to drain. 

In the meantime, I separated the yolks from the whites, and placed them in a bowl. To this, I added the heavy cream, half the the Parmesan cheese, and the black pepper.

I whisked this to combine.

Once the linguine was drained, I placed the pancetta into the egg mixture, added the linguine and stirred (and toss of you must) to combine.

The dish was done. The residual heat from the freshly cooked linguine will cook the eggs and the sauce will stay smooth and silky. You DO NOT want scramble eggs linguine. *SHUDDER*

I seasoned the dish with some salt and more black pepper and topped it with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and served it immediately.

Heavy cream, loads of cheese, pancetta and barely-cooked eggs - this dish is not for everyone but it is definitely simplicity at its best.

Buon Appetito!

Adapted from Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jaime Oliver

250g linguine (or any other pasta), cooked according to the instructions given by the manufacturer, and drained
2 pieces pancetta, cut 8-10mm thick and cubed OR 300g bacon, cut into small slices
olive oil
3 egg yolks
5 tbs heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Freshly ground pepper
Salt, to taste

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (check the package for cooking time). 
2. While the pasta’s cooking, slowly fry the pancetta in a little oil until crispy. 
3. Break it up a bit, then put to one side. 
4. In a bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream and half the Parmesan. 
5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and immediately toss it with the warm, crispy pancetta and the egg mixture. 
6. Season well, using plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and add extra Parmesan to taste. 
7. Serve straight away, with a big bowl of salad and nice bottle of red wine.

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