The apologetical Jimmy Akin has today without apology taught me that today is International Bacon Day.
I have the makings of something with bacon for this evening … or for tomorrow … or perhaps in the week that follows, since I believe there should be a Bacon Octave. Probably tomorrow, my Sunday Supper.
Let’s have a poll. Please choose your best answer and give your reasons in the combox.
I am using the term bacon to include what I have available, that is nearly unlimited good quality bacon and some little pancetta (I don’t have any guanciale and anyone becoming censorious about my lack of authentic guanciale will be instantly banned with extreme prejudice).
What bacony concoction should Fr. Z make?
- Rigatoni (or spaghetti) alla carbonara (32%, 315 Votes)
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches (28%, 273 Votes)
- Bacon and eggs (23%, 220 Votes)
- Spaghetti all'amatriciana (14%, 135 Votes)
- Spaghetti alla gricia (3%, 33 Votes)
Total Voters: 973
I would, if I could, invite to this Sunday Supper the Doctor Mirabilis Roger Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, but never never never the vile modern painter of that name who excreted hideous drek redolent of the the worst of the modern spirit, and the non-homonymous Fr. George Welzbacher, because he likes bacon and hates Francis Bacon, can read Roger Bacon and recount the life of Sir Francis, and has seen the thespian Bacon in the talkies.
Having bent my will to the will of the readers, I made spaghetti alla carbonara for supper.
Who knows where this dish came from. Some say GI’s brought it to Rome. HAH, I laugh with scorn, patriotic as I am. It was around before the war. Some say it came from the charcoal makers in the hills, who had the long-lasting ingredients on hand. The ingredients, however, suggest penury. Eggs… the rough cuts of pork cured… pasta. This ain’t cucina sofisticata.
In any event, I found some pancetta in my freezer yesterday and let it thaw slowly during the day. It was fine.
Tonight I used the pancetta, fresh eggs, grated pecorino and parmigiano cheeses, a tiny bit of olive oil, freshly ground pepper, cooking water.
Let the eggs be room temperature before you separate the yolks.
Use freshly cracked, ground peppercorns of a good quality. I am using Penzy’s Black Tellicherry on a very course grind. Pepper was the primary spice of the Roman’s in ancient time, along with garum. I see no reason why we should change. Also, and don’t tell anyone this, you intensify the pepper by grinding a little into your oil at some point so that it fries or toasts. Don’t burn it. Yes, it will burn, like everything else. Pepper has stuff in it that revvs us the human system. Did I mention that I like pepper?
Some people talk about using the cooking water from the pasta in the sauce. I don’t generally do that. However, with this sauce, which has to have a creamy texture, I do. In this case I also use less water than I would normally heat to cook the pasta in order to concentrate starch in the water.
Timing is a key to this, but you don’t have to worry too much. Cut your pancetta into small pieces and brown it. I used just a tiny bit of olive oil, though I probably didn’t have to. The fat will be a bit translucent. You can cut the pork in matchsticks or small cubes.
Alla Carbonara is at the same time simple and tricky. It is simple in its theory and ingredients, but you have to achieve a creamy texture without cooking the egg so that it coagulates, and yet have it hot enough so that it is warm when eaten. If at a restaurant you get a bowl of curdled bacon and eggs, send it back to the kitchen with the harsh words of contempt, a deeply furrowed brown, expressions of vituperation and scorn, shouting, gesticulating, glaring. But the ingredients are truly merciful.
I haven’t made this stuff for a long time. But the voting has required me to give it a try, lo, after all this time.
Boil water and get the pasta cooking. This won’t take long.
Eggs in a bowl. Nothing special there. Four for about two large portions. Obviously the size of the egg matters.
I cut up my pancetta and began to brown it.
When browned, leave it in the pan with the heat off. It’ll need to cool a bit so it won’t make the egg harden from the heat.
Fuzzy photo of my grated cheese going into the yolks.
Think about using half pecorino and half parmigiano or Grana Padano. Using only pecorino can get a little salty for some.
When the pasta is cooked, let it cool for a moment and add it into your yokes and cheese in the bowl along with the pancetta and mix gently with a spoon.
During the mixing/assembly process, add a bit of pasta water to the mix to achieve a creamy texture.
Don’t give into the dark side.
Don’t use cream.
Cream = Novus Ordo.
Egg alone = Extraordinary!
Assembled and plated.
Sprinkle more cheese on top and grind on more pepper.
I used to make this stuff all the time in a restaurant I worked for. I can relate an episode. One night a woman wanted “carabinieri” not “carbonara”. The waitress asked if she meant carbonara or maybe calamari, pointing to the menu. No, she wanted “carabinieri”. The waitress told me. I went out. The customer insisted. I explained that she wanted the “state police of Italy”. She insisted. I asked if it was pasta or something else. Pasta. I made the spaghetti and all was right with the world. Thereafter at the place we called it “Spaghetti Cops”.
So… thus endeth my Sunday Supper of spaghetti alla carbonara. Thanks to the readers for participating in the choice!
And remember, Sundays are good days for making something special and sharing it with others.