Frost was in the forecast last night, but I think we are too low down here where we live. The higher elevations in the north west may have been hit with it though. The garden survives yet another day.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
3/4 cups hot Chicken Stock or canned chicken broth, or as needed (if desired)
1/4 large yellow onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 1 cup)
1 pound linguine or spaghetti
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper
The Importance of Coarsely Ground Pepper: Coarsely ground black pepper is essential to this dish. If your mill doesn't grind pepper coarsely, try the following trick: Place the peppercorns on a flat surface. Holding the rim of a small, heavy saucepan or skillet with one hand, and pressing down on the center of the pan with the other, crush the peppercorns until coarsely ground.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to the boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Remove the rind, if necessary, from the bacon or pancetta. Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch slices, then cut the slices crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. A regular frying pan will do if you don't have a heavy skillet. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring, until the bacon is lightly browned but still soft in the center, about 6 minutes. The amount of fat in the skillet will vary depending on the bacon. If there is more than 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat in the pan, pour off the excess*. If there is less than 3 to 4 tablespoons, add enough olive oil to measure that amount. Add the onions and cook until wilted but still crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes. You can add some chicken stock, if you wish. Some people like it wet like that. I prefer to just use the pasta water which is added later. Add the stock, (if using) bring to a boil, and adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Meanwhile, stir the linguine into the boiling salted wafer. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 minutes.
Ladle off about a cup of the pasta-cooking water. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. If necessary, add as much chicken stock or pasta-cooking water as needed to make enough sauce to coat the pasta generously. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, tossing well after each. (A salad fork and spoon work well for this.) Add the grated cheese, then the black pepper, tossing well, and serve immediately in warmed bowls.
*Note: If you want to reduce the fat content, put the bacon/pancetta on a plate covered with paper towel. This will help soak up the extra fat. If you are a believer in bacon fat, just roll with it but don't use too much as it will overpower the dish. Replace the bacon fat in the pan with EVOO if you want.
The coarsely ground black pepper is esthetically important to this dish as it simulates the coal dust or small chips which were predominant in the earlier days in the small Italian towns where this dish originated. Black pepper is good for you anyways (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=74), so eat as much as you want, unlike coal dust. Sounds like Santa was there all year round and figured they all were just bad people. :)
- English proverb
Until next next time, good eating everyone.