Before moving to Los Angeles, I spent eight years living in New York City. I was eighteen when I arrived from Vermont wearing overalls (seriously) and twenty-six when I decided to drive across the country and start a new life in sunny southern California. During my last two years in New York, I lived with my best-friend Brooke in the East Village in the apartment I’d had since my senior year at NYU. I’m not sure exactly what we were doing career-wise back then: I was a nanny who performed in various theatrical productions, and Brooke worked for a PR firm and bar-tended. But whatever we were doing, or not doing, with our lives, we were definitely serious about one thing: all of the amazing restaurants and food that New York City had to offer.
When David Chang’s original Momofuku Noodle Bar opened just a block from our apartment, we became frequent customers to the restaurant that would soon become a world-famous phenomenon. On a mission to taste the city’s best, we had a running contest of which sushi place had the best tamago in their chirashi bowl, which French restaurant had the best foie-gras and steak tartare, and whose menu boasted the absolute juiciest burger.
Our culinary adventures mostly remained downtown, in our post-college price-range and scene. Brooke and I would read about some new uptown establishment and poke fun at its fancy long-winded name, but would secretly wish that we could afford to eat there. So when last week’s “Diner’s Journal” in the New York Times’ Dining and Wine section featured a pasta carbonara recipe inspired by writer Edward Schneider’s experience at a restaurant in Monte Carlo belonging to French chef-restaurateur Joel Robuchon of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon on East 57th Street (as well as many others in France and across the globe), Brooke emailed it to me as a joke. I laughed and went straight to the kitchen.
I added leeks to this recipe, and made sure to blend the sauce into a smooth, creamy consistency. The egg is meant to be served runny, then stirred into the warm pasta to cook on the plate. This time, I played it too safe and overcooked my eggs–which still tasted lovely, even with a harder egg–but I’m looking forward to making this again with a softer egg.
While it’s not the most photogenic dish, believe me, it tastes like heaven.
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 1 large leek, finely chopped
- 5 slices applewood-smoked bacon, diced
- 2/3 cups heavy cream
- 2 tbsp. milk
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 12 ounces acini de pepe or other tiny pasta
- 6 eggs
In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat sweat minced shallot and leek in butter until very, very soft and, in a separate pan over medium-low heat, crisp the diced bacon. Drain bacon on a paper towel and reserve. Add heavy cream, milk and Parmesan to the thoroughly softened shallot. Bring sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. After a minute or when cheese is melted, puree the sauce until very smooth in a food processor. Return sauce to heavy skillet and add the cooked bacon and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Bring 2 quarts of water to boil and cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite. Drain.
Leave eggs in 140-145-degree water for 45 minutes then carefully crack them. You can substitute poached eggs, but make sure the yolks are really, really runny. (The eggs — and indeed the Parmesan cream — can be prepared in advance.)
Carefully warm the sauce, which should be creamy but not too thick, stir in the cooked pasta, season if needed, and spoon over egg in warmed bowls or on warmed plates.