45 days

03Apr10

Could you go 45 days without bacon?

Bacon is one of those special things in life.  It’s one of those “viagra” words in food, like “truffle”, “fois gras”, or “fried”.  Chances are if you’re deciding between two items on a menu, the one with bacon will win.  If both have bacon, there’s gonna be negotiations at the table to have both.  There are even turkey and soy versions for people who have to (try and) give up the real deal.  This isn’t news to most people.

Miraculously, I’ve managed to go 45 days without bacon for faith-based reasons.  (I’m sure my doctor is thrilled.)  A lot of jokes & speculation went around about what I should have post-embargo: a maple-bacon donut, a bacon waffle, a bacon chocolate bar, old-fashioned bacon burger, etc.  But honestly, there’s really only one thing I want.

Spaghetti alla carbonara.

The first time I had it as a kid, I simply loved it for the fact that it was laced with bacon.  And then I found out how it was meant to be: al dente pasta tossed in a pan which was used to cook bacon/guanciale. (Bacon included!) The hot pasta and bacon is tossed in a mixture of egg, Pecorino or Parmigiano, pasta water and black pepper, effectively cooking it to create a silky sauce that dreams are made of.  But when I set out to learn how to cook it…not so dreamy in the beginning.  I had to get the timing and temperature right — yielding scrambled eggs or runny/saucy pasta that had to be reheated (creating more scrambled eggs).  Once I even had a bright idea to make it in advance for a dinner…LOL.  & then I took too much advice and added ingredients (i.e. peas, evaporated milk or cream, mushrooms) which didn’t hurt the finished dish…but still.  I wanted to know that I could do it the “original way” before putting a spin on it.

I set myself up by saying that because it’s a old, rustic dish.  I’m sure if you interviewed 100 Italian nonnas, you’d have a LOT of different versions.  After a lot of research I picked this recipe, and it was a very good day when I nailed it.  Eventually I made it my own with 3 additions: adding 2-3 cloves of minced garlic when the bacon was almost completely rendered, then deglazing the pan with 1/2 a glass of white wine (the other half for me!), and a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.  And depending on who I’m serving, I don’t always separate the eggs because the raw yolk would make them squeamish.  (Their loss, IMO.)

OK enough talking, I’m hungry!