A friend recently reminded me that “Miyoko hasn’t eaten in a while.” After an unplanned two-month hiatus, however, my appetite has been whetted and my creativity steeped, and I’m once again brimming with enthusiasm to huddle down in the kitchen and share the tales of my trials (and occasional errors).
I also have a new kitchen in which to work. Since I last posted, I moved to a new apartment that is equipped with a large kitchen with ample counter space and a live-in sous chef: my beau, Rob. Plus, we have a balcony—which means I’ll soon be testing the greenness of my thumbs in an attempt to grow herbs and small vegetables in an outdoor planter. (Lots to come on this and any garden tips are welcomec—more so, encouraged!)
My first home-cooked meal in my new house was a trio of summer salads (ingredients and recipes mostly from my CSA). We had couscous with almonds and parsley (to which we added chicken and which was my favorite), warm new potato salad with grainy mustard (which Rob liked the best), and a simple spinach, strawberries, and balsamic vinaigrette tossed salad.
On Wednesday, however, I cooked up a meal I had been anxiously waiting all day to make.
It came from the pages of former New York Times restaurant critic and former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl’s memoir Garlic and Sapphires, which my book club is reading for August. Intertwined with stories of brilliant holes in the wall and bland hash browns are a few of Reichl’s recipes. They’re simple, meant to be made with ease, and filled with her favorite flavors, rather than always with what traditional calls for. The spaghetti carbonara, for example, requires just six ingredients, takes only as long as needed for the pasta to cook, and substitutes bacon for cured pork jowl. I was sold.
To divine the dish, which Reichl notes is often concocted with cream in restaurants but actually requires none whatsoever, you boil water and make the simple sauce while the pasta (one pound of it) is cooking.
With the pot on the stove, you cut up your one-quarter to one-half pound of bacon (I opted for the latter, of course) crosswise into half-inch pieces. Then you heat the meat in a pan for two minutes, or “until fat begins to render” (which for me, on medium heat, took just about exactly two minutes). Next, add the two garlic cloves, whole, and continue to cook the bacon another five minutes. The goal is not to create crisp crostinis of fat-laced pork but to finish with cooked–yet-still-soft strips. When the edges start to brown ever so slightly, they’re done. Meanwhile, continue to stir the pasta, and in a large bowl, mix your two eggs with a fork and add pepper.
Here is where the excitement and intrigue lies: the part in which the pasta cooks the eggs. When the spaghetti is ready, quickly drain the water and immediately pour the pasta into the bowl with the eggs and begin tossing as thoroughly as possible. Reichl writes that the heat of the spaghetti will turn the eggs into the cream—though I highly doubted this.
When my pasta reached the perfect consistency, I tossed it into the colander then quickly poured it straight into the bowl of eggs like a hot potato. Amazingly, as I pulled the pasta through itself with a fork, the strands from the bottom came up coated in cream. Granted, the process also resulted in small bits of cooked egg clinging to the strings of spaghetti as well but it added texture (and Rob even remarked how much he liked the little pieces of fried egg dotting the dish).
Finally, you add the bacon and half-cup of Parmigiano cheese, mix, and serve. “I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast,” Reichl writes.
When we sat down to eat, it was love at second bite. The spaghetti on its own is alright. A twirl of it accompanied with a piece of the softly cooked bacon, however, is amazing. We decided that this pasta should only be eaten with bacon in every bite as it gives each mouthful that little extra hit and pulls all the flavors together. One taste I was surprised to enjoy was the smokiness of the bacon. When I went to the deli to pick up the ingredients, the only options in the display case were smoked bacons. I tend not to like the taste of smoked foods but in this pasta, it was so subtle and complementary that I would make it a directive to do so again when cooking this up.
All in all, the spaghetti carbonara required little more than 15 minutes to make and I have heaps of it leftover. (On that note, next time I would use less pasta as a full pound is far too much for a recipe that is written to feed three.) So here’s to eating and the renewed updating of Miyoko Eats.