first appeared on the Food Tasters Guide, October 22, 2014
Well, the amazingly talented writers at eatPGH have done it again. They have come out with the second edition of the Food Lovers’ Guide to Pittsburgh. This is the quintessential food book for all the best places to eat, drink, and buy food in and around the city of Pittsburgh.
The eatPGH bloggers are a dynamic team of writers who keep their readers updated on Pittsburgh’s ever evolving food scene. These bloggers are great at keeping abreast of what is happening in and about the city with all things related to food.
The second edition of the book has everything the first book had but with updated information; restaurant reviews, highlights of food festivals and events, noteworthy specialty shops and local libations. It still features sidebar stories, and they are now updated with new food places that highlight interesting Pittsburgh foods and notable Pittsburghers in the city’s culinary industry.
The newest addition includes a bakery section, it is a rundown of where to get the best baked goods in the city. If you want to find great homemade donuts, pies, cookies or bread in Pittsburgh, let this list be your guide.
I was also happy to see that there was still a recipe section in the book. Several Pittsburgh chefs have recipes in here, and the newest one comes from the downtown restaurant Grit & Grace. Chef –Owner Brian Pekarcik and Chef de Cuisine Curtis Gamble have come up with their take on the side dish of peas and carrots: Roasted Carrots, Fresh Cheese, Toasted Edamame, Little Gems Lettuce, and Chili Vinaigrette. I am putting this on my list of recipes to try because not only does it looks really good, but the list of ingredients sound just amazing in itself.
One of the recipes that was brought over from the first edition, was the Spaghetti Carbonara from E2’s Chef Kate Romane. This has been an elusive dish for me, because it is not something I grew up eating. Many Italian dishes were made in my family, but this was not one of them. I recognize the peasant style elements to this dish; the ingredients are pantry staples and the cooking method isn’t complicated.
Eggs, bacon, peas, cream, Parmesan Cheese and pasta, I have these things in my kitchen but the thought of these ingredients cooking together with pasta, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
I know it will yield a hearty and amazingly tasting dish because all of those items by themselves are all so delicious. I had wanted to make this recipe, yet for some reason I had never attempted it.
After seeing the recipe in Food Lovers’ Guide to Pittsburgh again, I knew that I needed to make this dish.
I wanted a Spaghetti Carbonara tutorial, and I had the best person to show me how to do it. I called my friend Blair Hohn. Blair is a graduate from the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts (Pittsburgh). He is the chef and Co- Owner of The Salted Pig. Blair did his apprenticeship at the Oakmont Country Club and is currently a chef at a private county club in Pittsburgh.
Who better to teach me than a chef? A Pittsburgh chef teaching me to make a recipe from another Pittsburgh chef. It was the perfect situation and it was something that needed to happen.
So Blair packed up his knives and apron, then came to my house to show me how to make a proper Spaghetti Carbonara. He is a chef who takes his craft seriously. However, he is always willing to share his knowledge and is so generous with his insights and cooking tips.
Watching a trained chef cook it is like poetry in motion. The knives move in fluid motions, the way they sauté and flip vegetables in a pan is just mesmerizing. These movements are effortless but meaningful, graceful and yet intentional.
However, if I were to copy these moves I would look like a Muppet’s character trying to dance the tango, it just wouldn’t work!
Trying to write everything down was a little challenging. For you see, chefs are always several steps ahead in the cooking plans and work at such a lightening quick pace. Thankfully Blair was able to stop mid-course to make sure that I was able to capture every step in the process.
There may appear to be many steps in making this recipe, but by do each one succinctly it will guarantee the success of this dish.
We used the recipe in the book as a guide, so the measurements were basically the same. The techniques and the steps are slightly varied, and some of the ingredients are different than what the original recipe called for. For example, we used Pancetta instead of bacon, but either one will work well. Also we used organic eggs instead of the farm fresh eggs that were originally called for. The pasta we used is dried, but fresh is a great option if you can get it. For the cheese, we used Parmigiano-Reggiano, but Parmesan cheese will work too. Lastly, we used frozen peas for this recipe. If you can locate fresh peas, you need to blanch them and then drain them well first before incorporating in the dish.
This is such a flavorful dish, so rustic and so simple. Don’t let the numerous steps in the directions sway you from making it, because once you have done it you will be able to condense the steps.
Like any peasant dish, use it as a guide and have fun with it. It is a forgiving dish and the perfect recipe to satisfy a hearty appetite during these cold winter months here in Pittsburgh. I guarantee you will add this to your recipe collection once you have made it and you will be happy you did.
I hope you enjoy it.
Adapted Spaghetti Carbonara from Food Lovers’ Guide to Pittsburgh.
1/2 lb dried spaghetti
3 slices of Pancetta (chopped)
3/4c – 1c heavy organic cream
1/3- 1/2c frozen peas (defrosted)
Fresh ground black pepper & Kosher Salt
1 organic egg (cracked)
Chopped Parsley (2-3 tablespoons)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
In a stock pan, heat water for pasta according to directions. Do not add salt to the water- this will come later. Reserve some of the pasta water for later use. By not adding the salt, this will yield a pure pasta flavor to the water- trust me on this step.
In another pan, heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat, add the chopped Pancetta and cook until the pork pieces become golden brown and crispy. Be careful not to burn them. Remove the pork pieces from the pan, put them on a paper towel to drain and set aside.
You will have brown bits of pancetta and rendered fat at the bottom of this pan. To this now add the cream and a pinch of salt (1/4 tsp) on a medium heat, cook to reduce the cream about 5-7 minutes. This will be done when the cream will coat the back of a spoon and has a gravy like consistency to it. Take the pan off of the heat and set aside.
Put peas in a colander and run under hot water, this get your peas to room temperature. Drain them and set them aside.
Cook pasta to before al dente (according to directions go a minute or two before the al dente time), drain the pasta and now add a pinch of salt to the hot pasta, sprinkling all around the pasta and set aside. Make sure to toss it around the colander to spread the salt flavor all around. This is a trick that was shown to me by Blair, and it works.
Get the rest of the ingredients to assemble the dish. Put the pan with the cream back on the stove top at a medium low heat. Immediate add the cracked egg, now stir it, add the peas, pinch of salt and a handful (about ½ c) of the cheese and stir. Add more cheese to taste if needed, and adjust the salt taste to your satisfaction.
The sauce will be thick now, if you want a thinner sauce, add a little of the pasta water now, a tsp at a time. You want a gravy consistence, something to easily coat the pasta.
Add the cooked pasta now and keep stirring until the pasta is coated and finished cooking in the sauce, about, be careful not to burn the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Garnish with the cooked pancetta pieces, parsley and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately, you can add more grated to taste.