Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Harvest Meal: Garlic Scape Carbonara

I'm counting this as a harvest meal even though only two of the ingredients were produced by us. They're important ingredients, and there just aren't that many ingredients in this dish, after all.

Spaghetti carbonara is a decadent dish that's often done very badly. Its sauce should be silken, but it traditionally includes no cream. It's very easy to get the flavors and ingredients out of whack too. My approach is to hold firm to the three eggs per pound of pasta rule, and to save a cup of cooking water, retrieved just before draining the pasta. This gets used to loosen up the pasta after the first servings have been removed. This is not a dish that holds well, so people should be seated and waiting at a set table while the cook finishes up the dish. It's also essential that said cook have all ingredients prepped and at his or her fingertips when the pasta is done cooking.

This particular variation came about because I harvested the last of my garlic yesterday. You may recall that I am experimenting this year with leaving the scapes on certain plants in order to see if this allows those bulbs to store longer. Since these scapes were more mature, they were also tougher. So I was only able to use the few uppermost inches of each scape. I snapped off the tough portions in much the way asparagus stalks are broken at the tough-tender juncture. I used this small harvest to substitute for the garlic cloves in a traditional carbonara. The dish came out with a gentle but bright green color, which reminded us of fresh mushy peas.

Garlic Scape Carbonara

5 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1/4" strips
3 eggs, beaten
3 oz. (by weight) garlic scapes, rinsed and patted dry
1 pound spaghetti or other long strand pasta noodle
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt for the boiling water

Bring a large kettle of water to a boil and salt it generously. Meanwhile, cook the bacon strips in a skillet over medium heat until they are well browned.

Put the garlic scapes in a food processor and process until very finely minced. (Mince extremely well with a knife if you have no food processor.) Add the beaten eggs and process just until well combined. Put the mixture back in the bowl you beat the eggs in.

Combine the grated cheeses.

Cook the pasta (using the parboil method). Prewarm a large serving bowl in the microwave or with warm water. Just before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. (I like to put my measuring cup in the colander so that I cannot possibly forget this step.) Have all the ingredients ready to go by your serving bowl.

Drain the pasta very quickly, without trying to drain away every last drop of water. Place the pasta in the serving bowl and immediately add the beaten egg mixture. Toss the hot pasta with the sauce very well to cook the egg and coat all the noodles with sauce. Add the bacon and grated cheeses and mix again. If the sauce looks too thick and dry, add some of the hot cooking liquid to loosen it and toss again. Reserve the remaining liquid to mix with any leftovers before refrigerating.

Grind some pepper over the dish and serve immediately.

Be warned: this dish is not for anyone shy of garlic. This is one powerful garlic wallop, stronger even than the clove or two of bulb garlic that normally graces carbonara. You may want a palate cleanser after this meal. I know the cheeses blow this dish as locavore fare. And it's definitely not something we can enjoy every week from a nutritional or caloric perspective. But as cheap decadence, it's right up there. Serve it with a simple green salad, and don't fret too much about the calories.


Wendy said...

I made a garlic scape pesto. It was outstanding! And then, in an attempt to preserve, I tried dehydrating it. Yeah, um ... not too smart. Olive oil doesn't dry well ... but you probably knew that. I didn't (sometimes I'm not all that smart ;). It's still interesting, and I think I could probably add it to pasta, and it really does taste good - very garlicky, but I like garlic so that's not a problem ;).

Cheap Like Me said...

Mmm, this sounds good -- we've been receiving garlic scapes from our CSA. But we made a pesto with them, and I've been waking up choking on waves of garlic emanating from my sleeping husband, so I'm not so sure I'm a fan ... even though I too love garlic. Maybe cooked it's better?

Kate said...

Wendy - yeah I made some of that earlier when the scapes were tender. Wow! Amazing taste. I froze two small bags of it. I'm sort of hoarding it, but I'm also trying to figure out how best to use it. Maybe you could mix your concentrated pesto into something and use it as a dip. Bread crumbs? Sour cream? Pureed artichoke hearts? Just speculating out loud here...

CLM, lucky you! Garlic scapes are pretty hard to come by if you don't grow the garlic yourself. We avoid the garlic aroma cloud problem by partaking equally of garlic in our marriage. I know it's not a solution for everyone, but it works for us. The scapes in this dish couldn't properly be considered cooked, I'm afraid. The only cooking they get is from the heat of the just-drained noodles. They do mellow considerably though when the leftovers are nuked. When I have cooked garlic scapes in the past, they become quite mild, with almost no noticeable garlic taste if paired with other ingredients. Saute them for a pasta sauce or a stir fry and you'll find them much tamed.