Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Carbonara

Christmas time is a season of great joy and happiness. But with all the extra things on the to-do list it can be overwhelming and tiring. At times I find myself longing for simple, comfort food like this flavorful rendition of spaghetti carbonara. 

I adapted it from a recipe given to me many years ago by my dear friend Kelly. The recipe came from the section of Gourmet magazine where readers sent in their favorite recipes. I have changed it a bit over time, but the end result is a deeply satisfying plate of pasta. My children request this dish more than any other. Add a simple green salad and it becomes a meal.

It is not difficult to make. It just takes a little time for the onions to cook. You want them to almost melt away leaving their delicious, sweet flavor. The sauce can be made ahead of time and then warmed to add to the cooked pasta. In fact the whole dish rewarms quite well making excellent left-overs. During this busy holiday season it is sure to bring comfort and joy.

Using a mandolin slicer makes cutting the onions quick and easy with the added bonus of no tears.

Sauté the bacon until brown. Remove most of the bacon drippings. Add the onions and continue cooking until the are very soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and ham.

Spaghetti Carbonara

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch (about 12 mm) strips
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed or chopped
1 pound (16 ounces/454 grams) ham or smoked pork chops, cut into 1/2-inch (about 12 mm) cubes
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry vermouth
3/4 cup (180 ml) beef broth, preferably homemade
1 bay leaf
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (200 g) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 pound (16 ounces/454 grams) spaghetti

Brown the bacon strips in a large heavy skillet over medium to low heat. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat (reserve the bacon fat in a bowl in case you need to add more as the onions cook down). Add the onions and stir to coat with the bacon drippings. Cook over low heat until the onions are very soft and begin to brown, 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic and ham. Stir to combine. Add vermouth, broth and bay leaf. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until mixture reduces a little. Add cream and Parmesan cheese, stir until melted. Keep sauce warm.

While sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.  Drain spaghetti (do not rinse) then toss with warm sauce to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve 4-6.

Merry Christmas!

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