Saturday, September 29, 2018

Pasta alla Carbonara

This is a plate that has to be on the table in heaven; pasta alla carbonara.  With only 5 ingredients; guiancale or pancetta (more on that later), pasta, eggs, cheese and pepper you would think that this dish would be a snap to make but it takes practice and following some basic rules.  Today I was privileged to watch as the Chef at Il Molino which is owned by Enoteca Properzio prepared this dish.  She has had years of practice, and she said your goal is not to scramble the eggs.  So here's how she makes it, and let me tell you it is heaven on a plate. 
The essentials: two schools of thought, either use guincale or pancetta, here she uses pancetta since it is leaner, pecorino, pamigiano, and pasta.

Look at the color of those eggs:  for 2 people you need 1 whole egg, and 1 egg yolk

Mix together the eggs, 2 heaping tablespoons Pecorino, and 1 heaping tablespoon Parmigiano, with pepper and a ladle (about 1/4 cup) of hot pasta water.

Set the mixture on the back of the stove top so that it will stay warm---this is really important, make sure that your ingredients are warm before you add them to the hot pasta

Cook the pancetta until crispy, basically while the pasta boils

This is how the pro's do it---and you can too.
No one is really sure where carbonara came from, some people say that it was made by the coal miners in poor southern regions, the pepper reminding them of the coal dust.  Others say that it originated after the second World War when the allies brought bacon and powdered eggs to the starving Italians.  At this point, I don't think it matters where it came from, all I know is that it is a beautiful, simple dish that is satisfying and pairs well with a rich red wine like Arnaldo Caprai Spinning Beauty

Pasta alla Carbonara
Serves 2

1/4 cup chopped pancetta
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
2 heaping tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese
1 heaping tablespoon Parmigiano Reggiano
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound buccatini or pici, or strangozzi, cooked 2 minutes short of al dente (save some of the pasta water)

  1. Pour 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a skillet, and cook the pancetta until just crispy.  Set aside and keep warm.  
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, yolk, Pecorino, Parmigiano and the pepper.  Spoon in about 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water.   Keep warm--if you don't have a stove top to warm this, I'd advise covering it to keep it warm.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss with the pancetta over the heat.  
  4. Remove from the heat and toss in the egg mixture, turning to coat the pasta, and distribute the egg mixture.  If need be, put back on low heat to continue cooking.  
  5. Serve the pasta garnished with more black pepper, and serve.  

Thank you to our famiglia Angelini and the Chef at Il Molino for such as special treat to learn how to make this beautiful dish.  There is Dr. C. ready to tuck in for lunch.  Ciao for now!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Touring America's Test Kitchen

Anyone who watches PBS has probably viewed America's Test Kitchen, or Cook's Country.  I've subscribed to Cook's Illustrated for more years than I can count, and love what they do. No advertisements, and pure cooking science, giving you the best recipes, and the science behind them. When Dr. C. and I were traveling on the East Coast in August, I got in touch with a cousin that I've never met, who is a Senior Editor at ATK.  I invited her to lunch, and she asked if we'd like to tour ATK before lunch.  That's an offer I couldn't refuse! 
That morning, the USS Constitution was taken out and there was a mock battle--this is the view from our hotel room

ATK has just moved into beautiful spaces at the innovation hub on the waterfront.  This is a bit of what we saw.  Look at all those ovens!  My cousin Andrea was working on peanut butter cookies....she said she'd probably make 65 batches---that's testing to the nth degree!

As we toured, we came upon a group testing cocktails for a new book, and as I was looking at what they were doing, I saw my editor from Harvard Common Press, who is now working at ATK testing cocktails among other things. 😊What a nice surprise!
As we wove through the maze of rooms, we came upon some interns who were shucking corn for a black bean and corn salad to serve from their food truck.  Yes, they have a food truck.

We went through the kitchenware area, and I was thrilled to see some of my favorites there. 

Good equipment makes for easy cooking.  We headed to the library and the office areas. 

Yes, I did see a few of my books in the library!  We took a peek into the fridges and they also have a take home fridge full of test recipes to take home---Not a bad perk.

All that butter!

We toured the space when Cooks Country is now filmed; in years gone by it was filmed in Vermont.
Cook's Country set
We then went outside, and saw where the grilling is done.  Lots of grilling goes on, and if you haven't gotten their grilling book, buy it, it's awesome.  With magazines working about 4 to 6 months ahead of schedule, you have to picture this grilling area in freezing temps and snow to go into a summer issue. 

After this amazing tour, we ate at Chickadee downstairs, and got to visit a bit more.  It was a joy to finally meet Andrea and to get to know her a bit better.  While we were touring they were filming a new series directed at children called ATK kids.  I can't get the website here in Europe, but I'm definitely going to buy the books for our grandchildren who love to cook. 
If you are in Boston, and ATK is offering tours, or open houses, I highly recommend it.  Thanks to my cousin Andrea for the ultimate back stage pass. 

Short Break

Spello is about 20 minutes from the Perugia airport, where Ryanair operates flights to London/Stansted, and 4 other cities in Europe.  Dr. C. has wanted to visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford airfield to see the reenactment of the Battle of Britain, and it was last weekend.  
We hadn't flown Ryanair before; it's what you would expect of a low-cost airline, except the seats don't recline.  If it was more than a 2 hour flight to Stansted, I'm not sure I'd do it, and with all their add-ons for baggage, seat choice, etc, it might be cheaper to fly from Rome, but this was an adventure, and Stansted is close to Duxford (which is near Cambridge), so off we go!
On our way to our hotel, we stopped in the town of Thriplow at a pub that I'd read about, The Green Man.  Interesting concept, the town owns the pub, and has a couple running it.  Check out their website for more info; we headed down some narrow country lanes to get there, and it was well worth it.  
They raise their own Berkshire piggies; and they have a service where when you make a dinner reservation they will take you home if you'd had too much ale

Berkshire sausages, whole grain mustard mashed potatoes, red cabbage, and chantenay carrots

Dr. C. went with the local beef burger with hand cut chips

Coconut custard tart with clotted cream and raspberries
Sufficiently stuffed, we headed to our hotel and thought if lunch was this good, they probably do an amazing Sunday roast lunch, so we made reservations for after the airshow on Sunday.
Saturday dawned cloudy, rainy and cold.  I'd brought a raincoat but didn't think I'd need the liner for it, so that stayed in Spello while I froze in the wet and damp.  We ended up buying a scarf for me, and a polar fleece for Dr. C.
We had booked tickets for the airshow back in March, and bought their gold package which included VIP parking (close to the gates) and a separate tent and viewing areas outside.  The tent was a blessing, because at many points the rain was torrential. I'd highly recommend this ticket package if you go. The photos I took look like they are in black and white, but it was just the color of the day.  

We spent all day at the show, and what we loved was talking with the other spectators, who were mostly from the UK.  They are so proud of their Armed Forces and this year is the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force, so this air show was definitely a celebration of the old and the new.  
On Sunday instead of getting up at the crack of dawn, we waited a while to see if the weather would clear, but it continued to pour rain.  We got to Duxford about noon, the rain seemed to be slowing down, and about 1 p.m. when the air show was just getting started, we saw some blue sky, and then miraculously the sun!  
At 12:45, the planes took off and did acrobatic maneuvers, and entertained the crowd.  Since we had seen the show the day before in the rain, we decided to tour some of the new exhibits in the hangers.  10 years ago Dr. C. and I came here--we opened and closed the museum, with him getting a ride in a Tiger Moth airplane.  He reads every plaque, while I'm content to stroll through the exhibits, and then find a nice corner to knit or read.  It works.  The American museum here is filled with planes we had seen when Dr. C. was in the military.
SR71 was stationed at Kadena AF Base when we were living in Okinawa; it was called "The Habu" by the locals after a poisonous snake that inhabited the island

U2 spy plane---we saw one of these in Korea

There is a restoration hanger at Duxford where they take old planes and refurbish them to fly or to be exhibited in the hangers.  It's a fascinating place, and the history is amazing.  With the show over, we had to go back to The Green Man for Sunday lunch, and no one does Sunday lunch quite as well as the British.  
I love the scrabble tiles

Dr. C. perusing the menu

a little nibble before dinner, sausage rolls

Sage and onion Yorkshire pudding, roast beef, duck fat roast potatoes, savoy cabbage and horseradish sauce.  There was another board that came with more vegetables, and a jug of red wine sauce.

Yep, that will do!
 We spent the night at Stansted, and got up at 4 a.m. to catch our 7 a.m. flight back to Perugia.  We spent Monday pretty whacked out, but I'm really glad that we got to check the Battle of Britain off Dr. C.'s bucket list.