Monday, July 23, 2012

Chicken Carbonara and oh, by the way, I quit my job in Congress. 

It's been almost a full year since I've posted on the Partisan Plate, but now that I've freed myself from the clutches of Congress, I have resolved to explore my culinary talents further, at least before I am thrust back into the world of stress, strife and insanity... no, I'm not going back to Congress, this time I'm talking about Law School. 

Yesterday afternoon I embarked on a pasta-making adventure. Specifically, I tackled Pasta Carbonara (with homemade fettuccine) and Caesar Salad. Overall it went very well and the outcome was a dangerously delicious mountain of Pasta Carbonara. 

Below are the recipes and a tutorial on the steps (and missteps) that I took. I hope to make my next few posts more interesting or exciting but in the meantime, here is one that I hope will make your mouths water!

Homemade Pasta

This is the fourth time I've made homemade pasta, and while I've developed my technique, I think I need to find a new recipe. So far I've been using Mario Batali's recipe, but either his recipe requires eggs the size of small bowling balls, or the recipe uses too much flour. 

You mix it right on the cutting board!

Using the traditional method, I formed a well out of the 3/12 cups of flour, and put the four extra-large eggs in the middle. I mixed the dough by slowly whisking together the eggs and the flour using a fork, until they combine to form a loose, sticky dough. While the recipe says to then incorporate the extra flour 1/2 a cup at a time, I found that I could only get about another cup of flour to work into the recipe, and was left with a flaky mess of flour that wouldn't stick to my dough all over my cutting board. Specifically, I think I wasted about a full cup and a half of flour. Needless to say, I'll either leave off a cup of flour next time or add two eggs. 

Once I'd formed the pasta into two dough balls, I let it rest for 20 minutes, and then used my CucinaPro pasta roller to roll out the dough. The trick is to start by rolling it at the thickest setting and then repeating on a thinner setting until you have it very thin. Then, you switch to the 
fettuccine attachment, and roll your dough through there. Unfortunately though I've used this machine before, this time the pasta did not cut thoroughly, such that I had to separate the pieces of pasta. 

When all was said in done, I plopped the whole thing (which turned out to be about twice as much pasta as I needed) into salted, boiling water. 

Chicken Carbonara

When one isn't having delusions of grandeur and snubbing one's nose at the "boxed pasta" portion of the instructions, Pasta Carbonara is exceedingly easy. In this case, I was the one doing the snubbing, and it's for that reason that my carbonara took me quite a bit longer, and came out a bit differently than the traditional. That being said, it was absolutely delicious. 

In spite of my ambition in making my own pasta, I fell just short of the fully- homemade mark by purchasing a rotisserie chicken and picking that instead of roasting my own (not to mention that rotisserie chickens are just darn tasty).  

The other easy portion of this recipe is that the cream, basil (picked fresh from our garden) , parsley, parmesan, and egg yolks all go together at once into a large mixing bowl. In a frying pan, I crisped the pancetta and garlic then added the shredded chicken and toasted walnuts (a delicious Giada addition). 

Once the chicken/pancetta mixture was up to full heat, I drained my homemade pasta (setting aside a cup of pasta water) and added the hot pasta directly to the cream/herbs/cheese/yolks mixture in the bowl. Second, I tossed in the pancetta and chicken. 

POOF! The brilliance of Carbonara. The heat from the pasta and chicken/pancetta cooks the egg yolks which thicken the whipping cream and melt the cheese, producing a creamy delicious sauce that you can mix up in a bowl without the aid of a stove. In addition to Giada's recipe, I added a ladle of hot pasta water to the sauce to help it bind and to ensure the egg yolks were heated up to the right level (without scrambling!)  In my case, this was a life-save because there is no pot big enough in my kitchen to hold the amount of pasta that I accidentally made. 

Because I ended up with almost twice as much pasta as the recipe called for, I added a bit more of all the ingredients (pancetta, parmesan, and chicken) but because I hesitated to add more egg yolks,  the sauce was a bit more creamy and a bit less yolky than traditional. I have no complaints however, as I could barely keep my fork out of the finished product.