Thursday, June 26, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara [Zack]

Carbonara is a pasta dish originating from Rome and is my favorite thing to eat. When we visited Rome, I was on a mission to find the best rendition so I could try to recreate it at home. This is pretty darn close. The ingredient list is extremely short and therefore relies on the quality of the inputs. If you can’t find guanciale (bacon made from pig’s jaw), use pancetta or lightly smoked bacon. If you can’t find a good pecorino romano, use parmesan reggiano.

The recipe has 3 steps: 1. Slowly render the bacon until it becomes crispy 2. Cook the pasta 3. Remove the bacon pan from the heat, add the noodles, and toss the pasta in the rest of the ingredients. The sauce becomes surprisingly creamy due to a combination of eggs, bacon fat, reserved pasta cooking water, and pecorino romano cheese. It’s bliss.


Slice the guancaile into match sticks and place into a cold frying pan. Turn the heat on medium, and let the fat render out of the bacon until it’s crispy and brown. Pour off the fat until about 1T remains and set the pan aside.

Prep your ingredients in advance because the last steps happen quickly. Crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly scramble them. Grate the cheese.

Salt a big pot of water until it tastes like the sea and bring to a boil. Cook your spaghetti until al dente. A few minutes before the pasta is finished, return your frying pan with the bacon to medium heat. Grab a coffee mug and scoop out a cup of the boiling pasta water to use for the sauce later. Strain the noodles.

Take the bacon pan off the heat. Bacon pan, I like the sound of that! Add the spaghetti, pasta water, and cheese, tossing vigorously with tongs to mix. You don’t want the eggs to curdle, which is why you remove the pan from the heat and mix quickly. Crack black pepper until your arm hurts, and serve immediately with a glass of nice Italian wine.

Makes 2 big bowls -
½ lb spaghetti noodles
2 whole eggs, beaten
2T-3T of pasta water
¾ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
100 grams guanciale chooped in matchsticks (this was about 3 thick slices for me)
freshly ground black pepper
optional:  chopped spring onions or 1 large clove of garlic

Song:  Missy Elliott - Hot Boyz

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tom's Classic Caesar Salad [Zack]

I have very fond memories of learning to make a true caesar salad from my uncle Tom.  I went over to his apartment for one of our cooking sessions and was surprised that our grand adventure was making a lowly salad.  Surprisingly, crafting a classic caesar salad with Tom taught me a lot of useful tips!

We uncorked a bottle of white wine, turned up the music, and had an amazing meal.  I had never realized that the original Caesar salad didn’t contain cream, but did contain anchovies!  I learned a lot of through the process:
  • Adding the correct amount of anchovies to a recipe does not mean that you can necessarily distinguish their flavor, but they can quietly enhance the taste of the dressing
  • What a “coddled egg” is and how to soft boil an egg
  • That I should actually use an egg timer for its intended purpose instead of guessing – there are certain things in the kitchen that you can’t do by feel
  • It’s way more fun to learn how to make a classic recipe from scratch versus glopping it out of a squeeze bottle


Get a small pot of water boiling for your eggs.  Reduce the water to a simmer and place your eggs gently into the pot and start the timer.  Take 1 egg out after 4 minutes (coddled egg for the dressing), and leave the rest in until your timer has reached between 5 and 7 minutes.  Five minutes will give you a runny yolk, 7 will be “just set”.  Take the pot off the heat, gently pour out the hot water, and fill the pot with cold water to stop the eggs from cooking.  Peel the eggs after they have cooled off for 5 minutes.

Slice your day-old bread into cubes. Place them into a frying pan with a generous amount of butter + olive oil.  Keep an eye on the bread and make sure to mix it around frequently.   It’s up to you how you would like to flavor the croutons – my favorite is garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and some type of dried herb.

Now, on to the dressing.  If you have whole anchovy filets, you’ll need to add them to a bowl and mash them up with a fork.  This will take a bit of muscle/patience.  Once you have a paste, add the minced garlic and peeled coddled egg.  Mash these up with a fork a bit to combine.  Then, whisk in the liquids - mustard, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  Crack a ton of black pepper into the bowl, and add the grated parmesan cheese.

In a bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing and add any other toppings that you’d like.  I usually add sliced red onion, a soft-boiled egg, croutons, and sometimes sliced avocado.  You can get as creative as you’d like: shrimp, chicken, sliced leftover steak, etc.

Makes 2 dinner-sized salads or 4 side salads

4 anchovy fillets or 1T anchovy paste
1 medium garlic clove
1/2T mustard
2T apple cider vinegar
4T olive oil
1 coddled egg (soft-boiled for 4 minutes)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salad ingredients:
a head of lettuce
a few eggs
sliced parmesan cheese
day-old bread
herbs and spices for the croutons
olive oil

Song:  Zusammenklang - Morgenblaue