August 27th 2011
I had some leftover roast chicken and fancied something creamy with spaghetti, so carbonara seemed to fit the bill. Carbonara (of the charcoal worker) is traditionally a combination of spaghetti, pancetta, parmesan (or pecorino), eggs and fat (these days, generally cream). The origin of the dish is unknown/confused – there are conflicting stories about charcoal workers, coal miners, resistance fighters and even American GIs with scrambled eggs and bacon. None of the stories sound completely authentic, though the dish itself, that of cooking raw egg and pasta is likely to be very old. I can’t help thinking that it sounds like a meal for Mardi Gras before a Lenten fast. My recipe has strayed a little from the original, but it does contain the traditional ingredients and a few extras.
Chicken Carbonara recipe (serves 2 – 3):
1 cooked chicken breast and leg (chopped)
4 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
2 free range egg yolks
2 heaped dessert spoonfuls of crème fraîche
1/2 pint of fresh chicken stock
2 handfulls of freshly grated parmesan
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
6 button mushrooms (chopped)
fresh peas (9 pods)
fresh broad beans (6 pods)
a splash of dry vermouth
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until it becomes crispy.
In the meantime, beat 2 egg yolks and the crème fraîche,
season with black pepper
before stirring in a handful of grated parmesan cheese.
Add mushrooms and garlic to the bacon
and when they look to be coated with oil, stir in the chopped chicken. Since the chicken was already cooked (raw chicken would require more cooking time), I poured on quarter of a pint of chicken stock and turned up the gas to simmer the liquid, the idea being to reduce the stock and flavour the chicken.
Shell the peas and broad beans – cook as usual in a little salty water.
When they are tender, drain them, but leave them in the warm saucepan until needed. These are a real departure from carbonara, but I fancied adding the peas and since I had broad beans too, I thought both would be nice. Peas and broad beans are still in season -99% of my vegetables come from Perry Court Farm and I’ve never liked frozen. I wish I had land to grow my own, but then I’d miss talking to the farmer on Sundays.
Once the chicken stock has reduced, add another quarter of a pint (continue to simmer – almost all of it will be absorbed or reduce)
and put a saucepan of water on to boil for the spaghetti. Don’t put the spaghetti in until the water has come to the boil – simmer the pasta and stir at regular intervals. Test that the pasta is al dente before draining. Reserve a small amount of the water. 1 packet of spaghetti serves about 3 – 4 hungry people.
In the meantime, when the pasta is nearly ready, stir a small splash of dry vermouth into the carbonara ingredients, for flavour, before adding the beans and peas.
Stir the cream and egg mixture into the other ingredients, on a very low heat (or even no heat) – it’s important that the eggs don’t curdle.
Put the drained pasta into the carbonara pan and a little pasta water (just a touch – don’t let the sauce go runny).
Give the spaghetti a good coating of sauce and serve immediately with a little black pepper, salt if needed, plus the remaining grated parmesan.
I’m sure that the biggest deviation from the original carbonara would be in the fact I made a sauce and added the spaghetti to it. Properly done, the eggs mixture would be poured onto the hot spaghetti, in order to cook it without scrambling (something that doesn’t happen with my method either).