Friday, 9 January 2015

Single Food - Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Guys, life is hard right now. I've actually taken to reading the obituaries in the Globe and Mail for the inevitable person who died way too young to remind myself that it could be worse. And obviously even the quickest glance at any news outlet affirms that (Paris, etc). Still, the self-pity party force is strong here, and there's only one cure: pasta.

I was on my own for dinner last night and having already declared my intentions to not leave the house, I had a somewhat limited pantry at my disposal. Of course, the purpose of the well-stocked pantry (of which I am a fervent believer), is that you will always have sufficient ingredients to make something delicious. All I wanted in the world was spaghetti alla carbonara and, with some modifications, I was able to make it happen.

Nigella's recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara from Feast has one of my favourite headnotes ever. It is reproduced in part on her website.
 Yes, I know a whole pack of spaghetti is far too much for two, but I want that whole panful lugged back to the bedroom.  No namby-pamby mimsy little plated arrangement.  So you'll have leftovers?  Just work up an appetite for them later.
So we'll blow right past the fact that instead of eating this romantically in bed, I ate it alone in sweats on the couch and focus on how delicious and easy it is.

My notes:
-I had no pancetta, but I did have bacon. Since bacon is greasier, I didn't cook it in olive oil.
-I had no vermouth, so I used Prosecco instead. Totally worked.
-I had no double cream (or what Canadians would call whipping cream), so I used half-and-half instead. Honestly, I didn't notice a discernible difference.
-I had no spaghetti, so I used bucatini. Totally acceptable swap.
-My digital scale has met some terrible tragedy rendering it virtually useless, so I eyeballed a lot of the qtys here. It worked out, but see below my pitch for a digital scale.
-I regularly forget to reserve pasta water, so if a recipe calls for it, I try to put a measuring cup somewhere obvious (like on top of my oven mitts or in the strainer), so I don't forget to grab some water first.
-Insert standard disclaimer about people who shouldn't eat raw eggs. Assuming you can, don't be nervous about the last step. As long as you take it off the heat, it'll all come together without scrambling.
-Nigella's note in Feast says it can serve two (or four, less excessively). I halved the recipe for one and it was a lot, although I did eat it all (I'm not ashamed). That said, you could comfortably halve it for two people, particularly if you served something else along-side it.

(Sorry, not sorry)

Useful kitchen appliances:
-I will be replacing my digital scale posthaste, as it's indispensable for cookbooks like Nigella's that use weights rather than cups etc. It's also far superior for baking, where relying on weights is much more consistent.
-A kitchen can't have enough sets of tongs. In this case, a set of rubber edged ones would be useful if you're using a non-stick pan so you don't scratch it.

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