Monday, June 20, 2011

Garlicky Carbonara

Our CSA has its own blogging diva (Peggy at Cook Out of the Box), an experienced cook, ingredient expert, and veritable walking encyclopedia of home-cooking knowledge. Her “Inspiration” posts help us subscribers, who are often a bit panicky at the site of a box full of seemingly unrelated and occasionally unfamiliar fresh ingredients, out of a lot of scrapes. Or, in the case of a recent post, out of some scapes as well.

In last week’s CSA box we received a bundle of garlic scapes, which are twisty curly stems that bear the immature flowers of the garlic plant that will grow up to give us the garlic bulbs we all know and love. They taste like mild garlic and are easy to chop up and sauté to add to just about anything that might usually contain garlic and onions.

Alongside those great scapes many of us also received a bunch of garlic chives. I’ve heard of these, and even tried to grow them (without success), but I don't recall ever eating them before. With flatter leaves than common chives, they look more like grass blades, and they really taste like a combination of mild garlic and mild onion. Subtler than either, mellow and delicious. Assuming you like garlic.

Peggy, in her Inspiration post, suggested tossing sautéed garlic scapes and garlic chives with pasta and Parmesan, creating a sauce with a bit of pasta-cooking water. I almost made just that recipe, but then I remembered that I had some bacon, purchased for BLT sandwiches featuring the fabulous lettuces we also got in our box. I would take the garlicky pasta idea, add bacon and eggs, and make it into a carbonara.

If you’re a genius of Italian cuisine, you’ll probably be turning up your nose at my version of this dish. You will see clearly from the photos that I did not achieve a delicate, creamy slurry of barely-cooked eggs and cheese. Those are quite obviously curds of scrambled eggs nestled amongst the pasta, bacon and green things. All I can say is that I tried. I transferred the hot noodles right to the pan along with hot pasta water, hoping they would quickly heat the eggs without overcooking them. It looked pretty good in the pan, but I’m afraid in the time I took to take the photo, I may have lost some of the intended traditional carbonara texture. Oh, the sacrifices I make for The Messy Apron.

Anyway, guess what. I don’t care. The dish is still delish. The meld of egg, cheese, bacon, and mellow garlic flavors is still delightful (perhaps even addictive), and if you’re not that hung up on perfect texture, the leftovers are great, too. All in all, a fabulous use of pantry and refrigerator staples and a couple of unusual ingredients from the CSA box. Of course, a real Italian chef would probably use Pecorino Romano cheese instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano in this dish, but, since I’m not even a fake Italian chef, I’m not beholden to culinary tradition and am free to love the dish just as I made it. Imperfect as it may be.

Pasta Carbonara with Garlic Scapes and Garlic Chives

3 strips thick-cut bacon (or 4 strips of thinner bacon)
8 ounces uncooked long pasta (I used linguine)
salt for cooking pasta
½ cup finely-chopped garlic scapes
½ cup finely-chopped garlic chives
3 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside on paper towels to drain. Chop or crumble when cool. Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat from the pan. Return to medium-low heat.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until tender. If possible, time the cooking of the pasta so that it is ready to go straight from the water to the pan (see step 4).
3. Add the garlic scapes and garlic chives to the bacon grease in the heated skillet. Cook 4-5 minutes or until the garlic scapes are tender, stirring often.

4. Remove the cooked pasta from the cooking water and transfer it directly to the pan with the garlic scapes and garlic chives. Toss briefly. Add the eggs, ½ cup Parmesan and about ½ cup pasta-cooking water. Turn off the heat and toss just until the eggs start to thicken. Serve immediately topped with the remaining Parmesan.

Other recipes like this one: Pasta with Yellow Squash, Corn and Bacon; Spaetzle with Cabbage, Bacon and Onions

Two years ago: Eggs Benedict Salad

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