January 20, 2012

Breakfast for Dinner: Mushroom Carbonara

All photos by Holliday
 Wednesday was one of those days you wish you were curled up on the couch watching trashy day-time TV and eating breakfast at 1 in the afternoon.  It just seemed to drag on and on...  I like my job and I like what I do, but once in a while I find my mind on Sunday morning breakfast knowing I have nothing to do all day but relax and watch football.  Then I snap back to reality and am sad because I really could use a fried egg and some bacon.  Well, when I got home Wednesday night I decided to treat myself to breakfast but quickly realized I was out of bread and potatoes so I had to come up with a Plan B: a meal that was like breakfast, but in fact was dinner.

As always, I made a mental rundown of what I had on hand at home.  Veggies, eggs, bacon, pasta, rice and various seasonings and cheeses.  First thing that jumped to mind was to make some kind of fried rice with a breakfast heavy ingredients list, but as I thought about it I decided that I wanted to push myself a bit more and make a recipe I haven't even thought of in years - Carbonara.  A creamy pasta dish with a little kick that can be made with everything I have at home.  And the best part?  I can make just a single serving.  I know that is a little bit sad, but I'm going to look at it as practice for my "someday."

Traditional Carbonara is made by frying meat (usually pork) in fat, dropping hot noodles in and then mixing everything with egg and parmesan cheese.  I can feel my arteries clogging just writing that sentence, but thankfully there are options to make a healthier version.  I start by pulling out all my ingredients and jotting down what I can remember for how to make this dish.  I know I will be using just one pan and the steps will go something like this:

  1. Fry bacon
  2. Saute veggies in bacon grease
  3. Add cooked pasta
  4. Add whisked egg 
  5. Season
Doesn't sound too difficult... right?

I start with Step 1: Fry bacon.  I decide to use my silver pan for this dinner because I'm sure the cast iron will hold too much heat and scramble the egg at the end, but this means I need to be more attentive to the stove top to keep things from burning.  The bacon is sizzling away so I prep for Step 2.  I have to say chopping mushrooms is probably one of my favorite things to do.  I have no idea why, but they are just so soft and quiet to slice up - a minor Zen moment for me.

I have to admit that I did not use fresh tomatoes.  I still hadn't made it to the store for fresh produce and I seriously dislike going to the grocery store without a list, so I am going to use what I have on hand.  My tomatoes are from a can of reduced sodium petite diced tomatoes that I will use over the weekend to make pizza I think...  Anyways, back to dinner.  I need to keep enough grease in the pan to act as the fat element to cream up the sauce at the end so once the bacon is uber crispy I drain all but a tablespoon of grease into my bacon fat jar and return the pan to the stove.  In goes my mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes.  Love the sizzle!  A quick crumple of the bacon and then that is also thrown into the pan.  

This entire time I have Step 3 boiling away.  I am using linguine pasta (did you know linguine translates to little tongues?) because I think the sauce will coat better then fettuccine and I am all out of plain ol' spaghetti.  Before my pasta is done cooking I splash some white wine (very carefully) into my fry pan to loosen up the fond and let that simmer while I finish up getting Steps 3 & 4 ready.

At this point the trick is timing.  The egg cooks with the heat of the pasta so I have to have the egg ready to go when the pasta is transferred to the pan with the veggies. I whisk the egg with a splash of cream, oregano, black pepper, crushed red pepper and a teeny tiny pinch of salt.  Now I'm ready to go.  I have my tongs in one hand and my egg bowl ready to go on the counter next to me when I remembered a piece of advice I got when I first learned this dish: Add a bit of the boiling water to the egg mixture to keep it from scrambling when added to the pan.  I stop what I'm doing and stir in about a tablespoon of boiling water to my egg mixture.  

OK - now it is time to mix everything together.  I pull my fry pan off the heat, drop the steaming pasta in and immediately mix in the whisked egg.  I can see the egg mixture thickening slightly, but it seems too watery in the pan.  I realized I forgot the parmesan cheese!  I quickly throw a couple pinches into the pasta and start tossing furiously.  The sauce still isn't the consistency I want so I reluctantly put the pan over the lowest setting on the smallest burner to thicken up.  To my surprise, the egg is not scrambling but becoming creamy.  I keep tossing until the pasta is well coated and the sauce is the right consistency.

Perfecto!  My Carbornara looks and smells perfect.  My kitchen smells like breakfast at an Italian joint.  I am so excited to try my creation that I am all but drooling as I take the last couple of pictures.  A small sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some parsley finish off the dish and I am ready to eat!

The serving size is perfect.  Fills up a small cereal bowl and, with a small salad on the side, makes a perfect single person dinner.  My first bite makes me close my eyes and say (out loud) "Oh my God this is good."  My cat must think I'm crazy.  It was the perfect blend of everything wonderful in life: creamy, spicy, egg-y, bacon-y, candlelight dinners, the perfect glass of wine and I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...you are an inventive, wonderful cook!