Tuesday, October 12, 2010
After a week of the world's worst cold I made a date with two of my besties, Chad and Ken, (Holla!) to enjoy a food extravaganza. The foodie destinations we visited have already been reviewed 80 million times (I've never said that I was cutting edge) so I was hoping our late showing would make for a more mellow experience since I can't stand crowds or lines or...people.
We brunched at The Breslin where I had the most amazing lamb burger with a side of thrice baked chips. Hello...you had me at thrice. (Oh, THAT'S why my jeans don't fit! Interesting.) We had some issues with the front of house but excused their general inadequacy after we ate.
Then we made our way over to Eataly. Yes, the original food and wine market is in Italy, but the way the lines formed around the block you'd think that Mario invented the place. Since I don't do lines, I took one look and got ready to run the other way. Fortunately I was with friends who aren't quite as fazed by such things. (Tip: If there's a line when you go, wait at the 23rd street entrance where it will be shorter. The Broadway entrance is bananas. Also, it only takes about 5 minutes to get in.) The place is pretty cool, though I can't imagine having an enjoyable meal there because it's loud and frenetic, not exactly the way I like to enjoy a glass of wine. I did manage to find some relative bargains hidden among the more upscale items. I bought some ground espresso for 6 bucks and a really nice bottle of olive oil for about 12. Plus the array of dried pasta is dizzying. At least now I know where to find those more unusual shapes.
A big motivating factor for our visit to Eataly was to pick up some guanciale, which is basically an unsmoked Italian bacon made from the jowls of the pig rather than the belly. It's a little harder to find than pancetta, so when we scored it we knew that carbonara was in our immediate future. This basic pasta is essentially a bacon, egg, and cheese (and pepper!) mixed into pasta rather than served fried on a roll. It's SO GOOD. There is some discrepancy about whether the name, carbonara, refers to a meal served to Italian coal workers (coal miner's spaghetti), or that it was originally made over charcoal grills, or that the abundance of black pepper simply resembles charcoal. Whatevs. It's delish. More importantly, I am suddenly realizing that this post is coinciding with the long awaited rescue of the trapped Chilean coal miners. Can you imagine being trapped underground for 69 days??? I certainly can not. And I can't believe their ability to keep it together and not go all Lord of the Flies on each other. They better get compensated for all of the book/screenplay/movie deals that most likely have been in the works for the past 52 days. That's it. Spaghetti alla Carbonara absolutely means Coal Miner's Spaghetti!
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1 pound dry spaghetti
1/2 pound guanciale (or pancetta or good bacon)
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated, plus more for serving
5 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti, according to package directions until tender yet al dente.
2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, cook the guanciale until it is crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the cooked spaghetti and add to the bowl, along with the guanciale, reserved fat, grated cheese, and a very generous amount of black pepper and toss until fully incorporated. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to the desired consistency. Season with more freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste, and grate additional cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 4 generously.