Wednesday, September 14, 2011
As soon as my grubby little paw grabbed the bottle of Curveball Spinning White Mad Max had stashed into his box of treats, I knew precisely what dish I wanted to make: Spaghetti Carbonara. Carbonara is one of the world's most perfect dishes, combining eggs, pork, cheese, pepper, and starch into an elegant sauce. Fact: carbonara is the only pasta dish in the world which can double as breakfast.
The composition of the Spinning White is an interesting one. At 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Gewurztraminer there is a nice acidic kick but also this white plays very nicely with spicy foods. This wine is also made by Paul Hoffman. You can find it for under $20 at Cork & Bottle, Mondo, and Rum House.
A fattier chardonnay might be many peoples first choice with a dish like carbonara. I prefer something that can handle spice a bit better, which this wine can. The reason is that black pepper can lose a lot of its spicy and aromatic characters when you cook it above a certain temperature or cook it for long periods of time. With carbonara, you aren't doing much more than warming than pepper, so be prepared for a simple battery to your sinuses, if you make it correctly.
Note: The beauty of carbonara lies in its simplicity. Do not try to muck this up with North African Wild Hyssop or Guatemalan Coffee reductions. And if you do, please don't write in about it.
Like roast chicken, I almost never make carbonara the same way twice. One time I might use fettucine, another time one egg and one extra yolk, the third time I mix the bacon into the sauce first, etc... But always, the same 5 ingredients: pasta, eggs, cheese, pork, and black pepper. Normally, I substitute bacon and Parmesan for the traditional guanciale and Pecorino Romano and you can too.
Cut bacon strips into quarter inch rectangles. Fry until crisp then place on a paper napkin lined plate to drain. One package spaghetti, boil in heavily salted water. As you can see, you do not need a doctorate in culinary arts for this dish.
While, pasta is boiling crack an egg into a deep bowl. Grate roughly a half cup of Parmesan over the egg. Whisk. Now take a pepper mill and crank it twenty times. Whisk again. Few more cranks and you should be ready to go.
Once cooked, drain the pasta but reserve a smidge of the starchy, salted water. Add the pasta and the water into the bowl and mix rapidly. The warm pasta will melt the cheese, warm the eggs, and awaken the pepper, essentially playing the role of the Uniter. Once combined, mount on plates and top with bacon, more cheese, and a crack or two of pepper.