Several years ago “deconstruction” became a popular term on restaurant menus. Let’s say you have a hankering for ravioli so order what you think is the usual bowl of cheese-stuffed pillows of love. Instead, what is placed before you, usually in a white and probably enormous rimmed bowl flecked with some scatter-worthy herb is a square of pasta draped over or under an array of stuff. “Deconstructed Ravioli” says menu. More like ‘fell apart’ ravioli, but who am I to argue. The end result was usually as good as the constructed original, and it all gets deconstructed once it passes the lips anyway.
Lately I’ve noticed deconstruction aptly fits me as well. First, there’s my age, or rather the years on the equipment and its associated general aches, creaks and stiffness. Dilapidation, while perhaps more appropriate, seems such an ugly word. Therefore I’ve decided that I’m just becoming deconstructed. Deconstructed is very chic, very trendy. Sure my package is increasingly undone, but you still get all the general good stuff. Then there’s life in general. I seem to be in the midst of a deconstruction there too. Most of the pieces are still recognizable, but in a state of rearrangement. I’m crossing appendages that whatever winds up in that big rimmed bowl will be swell too, but only time will tell. So In the meantime, I’ve decided to cook.
From time to time I find myself awake when the rest of the world sleeps. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I read. This past Saturday into Sunday I cracked some eggs into flour and made pasta. Wee-hour pasta making is actually quite soothing, and a great metaphor for making sense of the thoughts you’re noodling that keep you awake in the first place. A wooden board, a pile of flour, pinch of salt, and a few eggs. As you mix the eggs up in the center of the pile, it’s an awful mess. Bring in a little flour at a time, work it some, work it some more, and suddenly you have a silky ball of pasta dough, just aching with potential. Yeah, I get a little sappy when sleepless.
Anyway, as dawn rolled around and dough (unlike cook) was well rested, I decided it needed to be part of my breakfast. Tomato sauce didn’t seem a breakfast of champs so I went with the next best thing…bacon and eggs. Or in pasta terms, carbonara. In traditional pasta carbonara, spaghetti or some other long dry pasta is cooked, then tossed carefully with beaten raw eggs, cooked pancetta, maybe some sautéed onions, and parmesan. There’s always a bit of risk with traditional carbonara, since you are adding hot pasta to raw beaten eggs and hopefully coming out with an beautifully silky sauce and not scrambled eggs on the other end. My version of Deconstructed Carbonara takes that risk completely away. As the noodles are cooking to al dente, I just fried up some bacon, fried up an egg, and when pasta was done, topped with both, the browned butter from the egg pan, and some shaved parm. Sure it’s not traditional but the end result is pretty great, and really easy (especially if you buy and not make the pasta). All of which is perfect after a sleepless night of reconstruction.
Deconstructed Pasta Carbonara (or, Pasta Insomnia)
This makes one serving for the insomniac, but just double or triple for all the sleepless around you.
- 2 ounces fresh or dried noodles
- 2 strips bacon
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 egg
- A few shavings or gratings of parmesan cheese
- Fresh ground pepper
Put the pasta water on to boil. While you are waiting for it, cut the bacon into smaller pieces, and brown in a pan. Remove to a paper towel and wipe out the pan.
Now if you are using fresh pasta, drop it in the boiling salted water at the same time you cook the egg so everything is ready at same time. If you are using dry pasta, heat the butter and fry egg about 4 minutes before the pasta is al dente according to the timing on pasta package.
Add the butter to the pan and heat until it foams. Add the egg and fry over med-high heat. You want the egg to be cooked and butter to brown but not burn. When the pasta is cooked, drain and put in a warm bowl. Top with the fried egg, bacon and a sprinkle of the parmesan. Break into the yolk and toss everything together. Add a few grinds of black pepper.
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