OK – I admit it. I failed this weekend — twice. Epic Fails. My milk and honey braised fresh ham steak was dry on Saturday night (I covered and cooked what should have remained uncovered to boil off/absorb); my sweet, little, seemingly perfectly formed followed-to-the-letter-instructions hand-made gnocchi absolutely dissolved once they hit the boiling water: I ended up with a very thin sludge. And the clams in my chorizo cream sauce overcooked while I boiled all-new pasta water (after hurling the not-cchi into the sink and taking out my culinary frustrations on my husband by telling him to get the $%*!& out of my way, and then to $%*&! the $%*&! off, and then never speak the $%*&! to me again… but I digress) for ill-advised wiggly fettuccine when I should have used something smaller or nothing at all but the crusty bread I had in waiting.
ANYWAY… Today is today. And today I done redeemed myself! I may have totally glommed the idea off of the Family Kitchen’s Baked Eggs in Pasta Nests posting, but I put my own twist to tonight’s delish dinner — and I didn’t even have to go shopping! Clayton brought home a dozen Chip-in eggs and a pound of Codman Farms bacon he other day, and I already had everything else. So that’s why this is a *super* Weeknight Wondermeal: it cost me nothing out of pocket tonight, and was a delightful meal I would have paid fresh Benjamins to eat out. One of the primary criteria of a Weeknight Wondermeal is its simplicity; 6 ingredients (not counting salt and pepper) is all you really need. Bacon, eggs, butter, cream and pasta are regulars in my fridge — as is usually a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano — so if you are anything like me, you should be able to whip up this quick and elegant take on pasta carbonara any ol’ time.
Baked Eggs and Bacon Cream in Spinach Fettuccine Nests
3 slices bacon
1/2 stick butter
1/4 lb Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 fresh eggs
2 large/4 small nests of spinach fettuccine
salt and pepper
scallions (for garnish)
I begin with my bacon (I’ve never had bacon this fresh before, from an entirely organic source so close to home that my husband is literally feeding next season’s pork belly), which I chop and try out to nice crispy cubelets. Now… the rest of the meal will take less than 25 minutes: 10 minutes to boil the pasta, make the sauce, and assemble the dish (and, if you’re like me, some sub-urb biscuits), and 15 minutes to bake it (while you make a quick salad). So be ready.
I melt my butter in my wok over high heat. I throw my pasta nests into the salted boiling water on the back burner.
When my butter is melted and just begging to tan, I add my heavy cream and blend well. I bring this to a simmer for a moment.
Then I add 3/4 of my cheese, which I’ve shredded. (The rest I will thinly shave for a final garnish.)
I blend this well, bringing it to a low simmer to thicken, until it forms a smooth sauce. I also add some salt and pepper. (Crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg, paprika, maybe even a dash of curry powder would work nicely here, too.)
It’s been 10 minutes, and my 11 minute pasta is just slightly undercooked (I know, ‘cuz I bit off a snippet) — perfect! Using tongs and a meshed spoon, I transfer my pasta to the waiting bacon cream, and toss well. I add a tablespoon, maybe, of the pasta water, too, just to keep the sauce wet enough to bake later.
Using my tongs, I spin 1/2 of the pasta and sauce into each of two medium (10oz) ceramic ramekins, which I’ve brushed down with melted butter. I sprinkle most of the rest of my bacon (reserving a few chunks for a final flourish) on top.
The piece of resistance: a whole, cracked, raw egg, dropped into a wee basket I left in the middle of my pasta and sauce nests. I manage to keep the yolk whole only in one, but the other I rather “hold together” by virtue of a cleverly placed noodle and some dribbled sauce. I place these into a 350° oven to bake for 15 minutes, or until the whites have set, but the yolk is still glossy and runny.
After coring the best bits out of a loaf of bread destined for nothing (since my husband purchased a fresher loaf of preferred pan this afternoon) with a properly sized wine-glass rim, I brushed each disk with melted butter, and layered them with some of my sprinkled cheese into 4 cups of a buttered muffin tin, and then I stuck them in my oven along with my pasta nests to brown. I consider these my sub-urb Wonderbread biscuits: quick, easy, and yummy, leaving fodder for croûtons (or compost). I also threw together a quick salad of baby greens, sliced onion, strips of roasted red peppers, black olives, EVOO, and salt and pepper. Not that dinner needed these accoutrement — my simmering, saucy noodle nests of runny yolk baked eggs, bacon cream, and spinach fettuccine, studded with snappy scallions and sheets of nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano was a perfect packaged dinner all inandof itself. I broke my yolk, swirled my spinach tendons, and watched as the yellow bathed each bite in its greasy, glistening goodness. Good, glistening, gratifying bites as warm to the last as was the first, still baking inside its porcelain prison. The fresh, cheeky salad balances the richness of the carbonara (and what is pasta carbonara than breakfast pasta: it’s just bacon and eggs, yo), and the buttery bread biscuit is surprisingly ethereal, just the right lightness to complete the experience. After a few failures this weekend, this simple dish reminds me that I still got it – and wish, that you, dear reader, can get some of this, too. Hooah!