I love cooking in someone else’s kitchen. I love to evaluate the available ingredients, and morph them into a fabulous meal. In fact, I enjoy this process at home as well. Sometimes my best meals come from a seemingly barren kitchen; however, it’s even more fun in the home of someone else because they undoubtedly have different items on hand. This past week, I got to partake in an interest twist of this experience. My aunt and uncle recently left town for an extended trip, and the night before their departure, my aunt sent me home with any lingering food from her kitchen. This week, I have been cooking in my kitchen with someone else’s ingredients. My fridge is now stocked with a variety of herbs, at least two pounds of swiss chard from her garden, a block of gruyere cheese, bacon, a dozen eggs, and shallots, amongst many other items.
The chard was my main concern as I love chard, and wanted to use it while it was still pristine. The bacon was also beckoning to me (pork fat has that way about it). It was these two ingredients plus the eggs that inspired my dinner Monday night: fusilli carbonara with chard. I was coming down with a cold, and in the mood for comfort food; a veggie-heavy pasta laced with bacon and silky eggs seemed to good to refuse. There are many different ways to handle the eggs in carbonara, but my preferred method is to use the yolks only, and thin them out a bit with half and half, and mix in some parmesan. A lot of people use the whole egg, or set the yolk on top of the pasta, but yolk/half-and-half combo is my tried and true methodology.
Overall, this was a simple and quick preparation. Once I prepped all of my ingredients, I sauteed the bacon, shallots, and garlic in a large, while the pasta cooked. When everything was soft and beginning to brown, I added the chopped chard to the pan, and let it wilt. For carbonara, I like my bacon to be on the softer side, but if you want yours to be crispier, let it cook for a few minutes on its own prior to adding the shallots and garlic (which are actually optional and not traditional, but delicious). Once the pasta was done, I added it to the skillet and tossed to combine all of the ingredients. Last, I added the egg-cheese mixture, and combined everything until it was luxurious and silky. A touch more cheese on top, and any trivial problem on my mind melted into oblivion.
Pasta Carbonara with Chard (makes two servings)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 slices bacon, roughly chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons half and half (or cream or whole milk)
- 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely shredded, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1-1 1/2 pounds chard, roughly chopped
- 2 servings worth of short cut pasta
- Whisk together egg yolks, half and half, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and nutmeg. Prep remaining ingredients, and set aside.
- Put on a pot of water to boil for pasta. When water is boiling, preheat a non-stick skillet with the olive oil over medium heat. Add bacon, shallots, and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add pasta to boiling water (make sure to season with water with a couple of tablespoons of salt). Cook until al dente. Reserve about a half cup of cooking water, drain pasta, and set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, saute the bacon, shallots, and garlic in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped chard, and season with salt and pepper. Stir until it is wilted, but still in tact. Reduce heat to very low.
- Add the cooked pasta to the chard-bacon mixture. Stir to combine. Keep the ingredients moving and slow pour the egg-cream mixture into the pasta. Turn off the heat, and cook until the everything is heated through. If the mixture looks dry, add pasta water, one tablespoon at a time. Add remaining parmesan cheese as garnish, and enjoy.
June 9, 2015