Wednesday, February 10, 2010

an old standby

spaghetti carbonara

One of the first things I ever tried to make myself for dinner was spaghetti carbonara. It is deceptively simple: just linguine, eggs, half and half, grated romano cheese, parsley, bacon, garlic, salt and pepper. However, the proportions of these things are extremely important. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my general tendency to wing things, which generally serves me well, often is my undoing when it comes to carbonara.

Unfortunately, this particular evening was a prime example of poorly proportioned carbonara-- dry, and short on bacon. Plus the problems were exacerbated by two less than ideal substitutions: spaghetti for linguine and a particularly pungent parmesan for romano. Nathan will disagree with me but I really feel that the creamy sauce coats the flat linguine noodle much better than it does a round spaghetti strand. That being said, I think that this linguine's biggest problem was the parmesan, which we got from Whole Foods. Normally, I use grated Romano, which is cheaper, but I'm always happy when restaurants serve parmesan. The grated cheese is a big part of the recipe, but with parmesan, it became quite overpowering. I'm not sure whether to chalk this up to simply adding too much cheese, or to the parmesan being more strongly flavored than the romano and therefore serving better as an accent than as a main component of the sauce. You live you learn, although that's not to to say it still wasn't pretty tasty.

I've asked my dad for the exact recipe for my own future reference and to also benefit our non existent readers. Unfortunately, even that's a bit sketchy on the exact ratios. What he's written down is a quarter pound bacon and "lots of garlic," one egg and four tablespoons half and half. I'm not sure how much cheese he uses, or even how much pasta that's for. I know he normally doubles those quantities, so maybe that is what he uses for a half pound linguini? Haha, I guess this is where I get my tendency to just add ingredients haphazardly without measuring. I will add that it is a good idea to reserve some of the pasta water to add to the sauce if you find that it is too dry. This probably would have helped me out on this particular occasion.

We accompanied our pasta with a fresh green salad that we made up at Whole Foods. This is generally a good plan for us since we don't have to buy a whole head of lettuce, which will often go bad before it is used up. We make sure not to add too many heavy toppings to keep the weight and by extension, the price, down. For example, we can make up a hard boiled egg once we get home if we so desire. Usually Nathan is on salad making duty, but on this night I took the helm. I used all three salad mixes they offered at the salad bar: spinach, arugula and micro greens, and topped it off with some red onions and plenty of croutons and blue cheese. I don't recall exactly, but I think we just dressed it with some simple olive oil and vinegar.

blue cheese salad

I'll leave you with a shot of the lovely Picket Fence wine that completed our meal, which Nathan got from his dad for Christmas. I won't tell you what our evening activity was that night, but the eagle eyed reader will take note of the subtle clue in the following photo.

picket fence wine