Sunday, May 9, 2010

Recent cooking adventures: barbecue ribs, beer brats, homemade calzones, and penne carbonara

Just because I've been a bit neglectful of the blog doesn't mean I haven't been continuing to cook!

Take a peek at a few things I've been up to lately - beer brats last weekend, then a major cooking marathon of side-by-side barbecue ribs and homemade calzones, then last night's creamy carbonara:

Carbonara is one of the first dishes I learned how to make when I started cooking for myself sophomore year of college. I had never even heard of it, but read an article about Rachel Ray, and how it was a special meal for she and her husband. I loved how it was nicknamed "coal miner's pasta," and I decided to make it myself.

The worst screw up I have ever had cooking this dish was making the mistake of drinking some of the wine while cooking, then laying down on the couch while the bacon and garlic browned. Lesson learned: never walk away from the stove for a quick lie down. Especially not while you are an overworked college student.

I recently had a pasta special at the little cafe next door to my office that was called carbonara but was a really creamy sauce, almost as thick as alfredo.

I decided to try to incorporate a little of that creaminess into my dish this weekend.

Penne carbonara recipe:
(adapted from Rachel Ray)

1 lb pasta (I like rigatoni for this, you can use regular spaghetti. I used penne this weekend), cooked to just before al dente in salted water. Reserve 1 c of the pasta cooking water.
1/3 lb pancetta or about 8 slices of bacon
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 c white wine, like pinot grigio
2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 c heavy cream or half&half
3/4 c shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (can use a mix of Italian cheese)
handful of chopped parsley
black pepper

Fry bacon until not quite crisp. Remove from pan and chop roughly. Drain the fat from the pan. Reserve entirely if you have uses for it, otherwise keep just 1 TBS

Heat 1 TBS bacon fat over low heat, return bacon to the pan and stir in the garlic and red chili flakes. Saute about 2 mins (do not burn the garlic), then stir in the wine. Increase the heat and allow alcohol to evaporate. The liquid will reduce by about half. Turn off the heat.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and yolks, then slowly stir in about 1/3 c of the pasta water to temper the eggs. Mix in the half&half (if using) and the cheese.

Slowly stir in the egg mixture into the pan sauce, then quickly toss in the pasta. Season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper and parsley.

And, if someone has a good way of reheating carbonara that *doesn't* cause the egg in the sauce to scramble, please let me know.

Dreaming? of my next Disney trip, in just one week!


  1. Yum! I just had a little banana bread to hold me over for dinner, but these photos make me want to eat, eat, eat.

    I haven't cooked anything new lately. Maybe I'll try one of your recipes!

  2. I'm liking the slide show! That all looks delicious...

  3. Our take on your brats: We put the sliced onion into the beer when we boil the brats, then take them out and grill them. So similar, but the onion gets soaked in the beer with the brats and flavors the brats too!

    Also on reheating carbonara: Never in the microwave (but I'm sure that is duh). Basically, the whole thing is to not let the heat get high enough to coagulate the protein in the egg! (that's the sciency thing)

    I just do low and slow on the stovetop, with a little bit of water for consistency. If I don't want to be active, sometimes I just put it in the oven or toaster oven--not as good, but works 10x better than microwave! And it will never be the same as fresh off the stove, sadly.

  4. Great advice, S! Thanks!! :)