Sunday, 28 August 2011

Just Another Day of Cooking

Today in the village of Granville--and in much of the Midwest, it seemed--the weather was near perfect and incredibly motivating. With road trip/fall type music playing, I took a brisk walk back and forth to church. On my return journey, food found its way to the foreground of my mind (it didn't hurt it was also lunch time) and I conceived the notion of cooking some carbonara. When I got back, I turned on the tv, set it to the Food Network, and pulled up my last go at this simple dish. This time around I used lemon-lime soda instead of white wine and somehow came up with my best attempt to date.

Start everything off by getting a pot of water boiling for the pasta. When the water is ready, start the pasta (in this case, whole wheat linguine; about one small handful broken in half) cooking and then move onto crisping some bacon (this time, three slices). Once the bacon is cooked, blot off any excess fat from the bacon, trim any chewy bits and give the crisped bacon a rough chop. Set this aside and reserve a little less than a tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat. By the time the bacon is ready, the pasta should be about halfway done cooking.

In a small fry pan, heat up the rendered bacon fat and add about a tablespoon of lemon-lime soda. [I typically use white wine but since I didn't have any bottles open, I went with the only open drink I did have.] Everything should be simmering at this point; add to the pan about 1/4 c heavy cream and 1/4 c mozzarella cheese. Use a spatula to stir the ingredients together and let the flavours simmer together for a minute or so. Add about a handful (1/4 c) frozen (or fresh) mixed vegetables and continue cooking the sauce until the vegetables have thawed out.

Your pasta should be finished by this point (if not, reduce the heat to low until it's ready; also, do not worry about cooking the pasta too long, as it typically takes longer to cook whole wheat pasta anyway). Drain the pasta and add it directly to the pan. To this, add about half the bacon and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. Stir this all together to combine all the components.

One of my favourite kitchen gadgets is my moulding ring, so I used it in this pasta presentation (clearly the lead photo is a better shot than this one), and topped it all off with a raw egg yolk and half of the remaining bacon bits. [For previous attempts, I used a fried egg but carbonaras in France got me much more comfortable with raw eggs.] Surprisingly filling for just this small amount, the smooth sauce and egg yolk created a rich and creamy texture which worked with the textural differences of the linguine, mixed veg, and bacon. As a side note, this particular batch makes enough for two servings, the second of which will definitely be for lunch tomorrow.

Fast forwarding in history to earlier tonight, I was craving something sweet and after realising the local frozen custard shop was closed, I set out to make something minty to replace that desire. And so, I took out some mint chocolate candies (about 1/4 c), mint brownie ice cream (about 1/2 c), and mint hot chocolate mix (1 tbsp), and blended that together with 1/2 c milk.

Noticing the natural colour separation and layering--none of which seemed to truly resemble green mint, I hand whisked a few tablespoons (I'm really guesstimating here it was a little less than 1/4 c) whipping cream. When the cream started to form soft peaks, I added a heaping tablespoon powdered sugar and continue whisking until the cream formed stiffer peaks. To this, I whisked in three drops of green food colouring.

Even though everything had been initially blended together, I found the clearly defined layers to still hold onto their general taste. The bottom layer constituted the crushed mint chocolate candies; the middle layer held onto the mint brownie ice cream; and the top chocolate layer tasted like a cooled off mint hot chocolate. I was really happy with the way the whipped cream turned out and topping all of this off with marshmallows (to go with the mint hot cocoa mix) and more mint chocolate candies worked out perfectly. In the end, it worked even better to give all these components a final stir. For more photos from today's cooking fare, click here.

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