Carbonasia November 8, 2005

I’m not really into the oh-so-dated sounding ‘fusion’, I just like good food. To that end, I share one of the first dishes I’ve actually designed instead of just thinking about what it needed and adding it in.

The two players: 1) My favorite pasta dish is Carbonara, no matter which shaped noodle it's applied to. (Preferably something with lots of nooks and crannies like Penne or Rotini or anything else not long and straight.) It's a very basic recipe, as are any you can describe in one sentence. Cook the pasta, then dress with cooked pancetta or bacon, cream, parmesan, and egg yolks while the noodles are still hot. See! One sentence. I haven't included quantities, but they tend to vary a bit for me anyway. This dish is sublime, a little bit of the bacony-goodness flavor goes a long way through the dish and the texture of the just-cooked egg yolks is creamier and richer than cream itself.

2) One of my all-time favorite cured pork products (and there is a LONG list) is chinese sausage. These little nuggets of joy have such a wonderful and distinct flavor – the downside is, they really are a ‘special treat’. (Coming in at 200 calories, a full 130 from fat, per link they had better be!) So I really enjoy the flavor, but was pondering how best to spread it out a bit, when carbonara came to mind. You can take 2 or 3 peices of bacon or pancetta and spread them, in that dish, so their flavor permeates every bite.

Hence, Carbonasia. I decided to push the flavors a bit further too, infusing ginger, garlic, star anise and szechwan peppercorns into the cream by lightly simmering it and adding a bit of milk to stretch the body a bit.

End result: Delicious. Addictive. I may never make ‘normal’ carbonara again. It’s a ‘special treat’ food anyway so I’ll be hard pressed not to convince myself to go the silk road next time I make it. The only things I’d change were to actually cut the ginger/garlic in bigger ‘chunks’ and then strain the cream – biting down on little nuggets of that flavor detracted somewhat from the final dish. Their perfume, however, added a critical dimension.

A recipe then, from memory – it’s a pretty ‘rough’ dish anyway.

1) Chop up the Chinese sausages (as many as you are brave enough to use, I went with 2 for 12 lb of pasta) into a fairly fine dice. Cook them until they begin to crisp up, then remove the pan from the heat. Leave the sausage in the pan.

2) Simultaneously, cook pasta, in any of the aforementioned shapes, until done.

3) Simultaneously, get 3oz cream and about 3oz milk simmering as gently as possible and add in roughly chopped ginger, garlic and optionally star anise and Szechwan peppercorns. Reduce by about half.

4) Whisk 2 egg yolks for every 1/2lb of pasta you’re cooking with a healthy grating of parmesan cheese. (About 14 cup grated for every 2 egg yolks.) Set aside.

5) When the pasta is drained, toss it into the same pan that the Chinese sausages cooked in, dressing the noodles in the bits of sausage and the little bit of fat that rendered out of them while cooking. (It shouldn’t be much at all, but it makes the flavor go a mile.) Dump into your serving bowl (or in my case, the pasta pot) and strain the infused cream into it, tossing to coat, then pour the egg/cheese mixture in, tossing to coat as well.

Serve as soon as possible, with another dusting of parmesan over the top.