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Spaghetti Carbonara with Frisée

(adapted from Frank Crispo’s Spaghetti Carbonara as printed in Esquire)

Frank Crispo shows three strokes of creative genius in his take on the traditional dish. First, instead of using only bacon, he ups the complexity with a trio of pork meats. Second, the addition of frisée lightens the heaviness and adds a subtle green freshness. Third, rather than scrambling the egg in the process, he poaches an egg on the side and tops the pasta with white clouds of poached egg and a twist of the pepper mill at the last minute, resulting in a gorgeously aesthetic presentation and avoiding that gloppy texture of traditionally prepared carbonara. I’ve tinkered with it over the past year to suit my family’s tastes, adding red pepper flakes for spice (although some of my kids still add Tabasco to it) and pasta water for extra smoothness. This is the best version I’ve come up with. So far….

Note 1: Do not be alarmed if it seems unduly saucy or brothy. As the pasta sits in the broth while you poach the egg, it will continue to cook and absorb it. Actually by the next day it’s an absolutely perfect ratio. The last thing you want is dry pasta.

Note 2: If I make it for a large crowd, I eschew the individual poached egg toppings, as lovely as it looks, and toss all the poached eggs together with pasta in a huge serving bowl.

Note 3: As I mentioned in Note 1, it’s even better the next morning, so replace your boring old egg and bacon breakfast with this zingy wake-up call. Pairing: extra strong coffee.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces dried spaghetti
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 2 ounces smoked slab bacon (I prefer Neiman Ranch smoked applewood), diced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto di San Daniele (substitute di Parma) cut into strips
  • 2 teaspoons organic red pepper flakes
  • coarse sea salt and organic ground black pepper
  • 1 – ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 head of frisée lettuce (or bag of Trader Joe’s packaged frise), chopped finely
  • bunch of Italian parsley, washed and chopped finely
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • ¼ cup pasta water (from the spaghetti)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup mixture Parmegiano and pecorino Romano, grated (Crispo prefers Locatelli)
  • 4 eggs

Egg Poaching Liquid:

  • small pot of water
  • 6 Tablespoons plain white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Pairing: A Sangiovese, a heavier style pinot noir, or a Rafanellii-style Zinfindel such as Ridge could stand up in the ring with this heavy-weight.

Directions:

  1. Cook spaghetti slightly less than al dente, reserving pasta water.
  2. Drain spaghetti but do not rinse. Toss with butter and olive oil,
  3. Bring egg poaching liquid to boil and leave on low heat.
  4. Saute meats until crisp, about 10 minutes, adding in red pepper toward end.
  5. Add chicken broth, sherry and pasta water and simmer 8-10 minutes.
  6. Add frisée, parsley, salt and pepper.
  7. Add spaghetti to pot, turn off heat, stir, cover and let it relax and and soak up the goodness.
  8. Poach egg gently until whites set but yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes.
  9. While eggs are poaching, fill 4 bowls with spaghetti.
  10. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs and place on top of pasta.
  11. Grind black pepper coarsely directly on egg, serve and mix immediately.

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