28 July 2009

Jamie's Beautiful Courgette Carbonara

The other night, or early morning, sometime after midnight, I was searching my TIVO when I ran across Jamie At Home. Jamie Oliver, whom I have loved since he was much younger and naked, had a show on the BBC called Jamie At Home which consisted of 12 shows. In the US, the Food Network has been showing the summer season, over and over and over.

In the show, Jamie runs about his garden (carefully taken care of by a gardener.) Jamie gathers food he (read: his gardener) has grown and then he makes quick and easy dishes in a few minutes right before your eyes. As always happens with TV chefs, the show was the perfect platform for a really large and pricey cookbook entitled, Jamie At Home, which, of course, I own.

The show I re-watched (it was after 2 am and there was not a Law & Order on any channel, which is a really rare experience) was on courgettes. In the US of A we call courgettes “squash” of any of the zucchini, crook neck, summer yellow, pattypan variety. On the "squash" show he made a carbonara and it looked so good, I decided to make it.

Here’s what Jamie did….

Boil a package of pasta of the penne variety.

Cut up some bacon, then cut up 2 or 3 squash in slices or small sections the size of the penne.

Throw the bacon in the skillet and cook till dark and crispy.

While it’s getting crispy, mix a couple of egg yolks, a cup of cream or half–and-half and some Parmesan and set aside.

When the bacon is crispy, add the squash and fry it until it a bit soft, and by the time the squash is soft the pasta should be done.

Save a bit of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the skillet and remove from heat to cool down just a bit.

Mix in the egg mixture quickly, add some of the cooking water and serve immediately.

Jamie’s recipe takes longer to read than to actually make the carbonara. (Not quite as long but still…)

Here is the official recipe.

Beautiful Courgette Carbonara

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 medium green and yellow courgettes
500g penne
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
100ml double cream
2 good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil
12 thick slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon cut into chunky lardoons
a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get a hold of flowering thyme)
optional: few courgette flowers

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgettes at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.

To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.

Heat a very large frying pan (a 35 cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated whit all the lovely bacon-flavored oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.

It is very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavors, then remove from heat and add a ladleful of the reserves cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)
Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any courgette flowers tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stogy if left too long.

Jamie At Home, the cookbook, features another of my favorite recipes, Venison Stroganoff , that we featured on the Cookbook of the Day blog.

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