Monday, August 15, 2016

Week 29 - Fat

Most cooking involves some sort of fat, whether it's oil, cheese, or some other type of animal fat, so when the theme for Week 29 turned up as "fat," it seemed like you could just cook anything you wanted. Of course, the goal was to put the fat front and center, so I went with bacon fat. After looking through some recipes involving bacon, the one that stood out to me was spaghetti carbonara. I had always wanted to make it, and not only would it use oil and bacon, but there would also be cheese. Perfect.

I started with a spaghetti carbonara recipe from Allrecipes, and mostly stuck with it, with minimal adjustments. The ingredients we used were:

- 1 lb spaghetti ($0.99) *
- olive oil ($0.30)
- 10 slices of bacon, chopped ($4.49)
- 1 onion, chopped ($0.50)
- about 3 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.10)
- 4 eggs, beaten ($0.40)
- about 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided ($1.30)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped ($0.50)

* The recipe called for 1 lb of spaghetti, so that's what we made. We didn't end up using all of it for this recipe and certainly didn't need to make it all. More on that later, but I'm counting the full cost of the spaghetti here since we did make it all and I ate the rest (plain) for lunch.

The total for the meal was about $8.63, most of which was (as expected) the cost of the bacon. Not too bad for dinner.

The first step was to cook the pasta al dente, and then drain it and toss with a little bit of olive oil. I didn't measure it, but it was probably about a tbsp. It didn't "toss" very well since I didn't add the olive oil immediately after draining because I was busy doing other things and I forgot.

The next step was to cook the bacon, which A helped me with while I prepped other stuff. The goal is for the bacon to be slightly crisp, but ours didn't get that crispy. We decided it was done when it was well-cooked and had released a lot of bacon grease in the pan. After that, we removed the bacon from the pan and drained it on towels.

To the bacon fat that was left in the pan, first I added a splash of olive oil. Then we added the onion and cooked it until it was translucent, and then added the garlic for another couple of minutes, stirring frequently.

Once the onions and garlic were done, it was time to add the bacon back into the pan, followed by the spaghetti. On the TV cooking shows, they're always cooking pasta in large skillets with tongs, so I thought I would try doing the same. Maybe their skillet is larger, or maybe their pasta was easier to work with, but I found it really tough doing this and getting everything to mix together. Most of the bacon and onions refused to mix with the pasta when I was doing it, so A took over and really worked hard to get it all to combine.

We added the pasta in small batches into the skillet and after a while, I just stopped. This is how much pasta was still left when I quit adding it to the skillet. We definitely didn't need to make it all for this recipe, as it was just an overwhelming amount of pasta compared to the amount of other stuff in the recipe (and I was already using a pretty large onion and more bacon than the original recipe called for). I guess if you prefer carbonara with tons of pasta, maybe it's the right amount, but it just seemed a little too much for us.

Once the pasta, bacon, and onions were well mixed together, there were only a couple more steps to finish making the carbonara. I added about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese to the bowl of beaten eggs since some of the comments to the recipe suggested doing that, and then it was time to add it.

This is where it was really helpful that we both were working on dinner at the same time. The next step was to add the beaten eggs, and to toss constantly until the eggs were barely set, followed by the parmesan cheese (another 1/4 cup), and continuing to toss. Since A was tossing the pasta, he just kept doing that while I added the eggs and the cheese. Otherwise, I'm not sure how that would have happened "quickly." The last step was to add a little bit of salt and pepper to taste. I added more pepper than salt.

Once it was all mixed, we spooned out the pasta, and then added the remainder of the parmesan cheese and the parsley as garnish.

We were pretty happy with this spaghetti carbonara. Although we've known what it was and seen it made before, we had never really eaten it before. It was a rich, decadent dish, but so full of flavor. We were quite pleased with the result and would definitely make this again (although maybe with less pasta).

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