Dinner:  September 15, 2008

We’re big fans of the chicken and pork products available from Pat’s Pastured, and when they’ve got something new available, we usually jump on it, so when we arrived at their stall at the Hope High market a couple of Saturdays ago and saw that they had smoked pork jowls, of course we bought one.

For those who don’t know, the jowl of the pig is the part traditionally used for guanciale, a delicious salt-cured cut similar to bacon or pancetta. It features prominently in two classic pasta sauces: all’amatriciana, with lots of softened onions and tomato; and carbonara, the simple but ultra-rich egg and black pepper combo.

Since Mike had cooked up a batch of all’amatriciana recently with some guanciale I brought home from the North End, we elected to use this piece of jowl in a carbonara. After trimming the skin, he cut the jowl in half and proceeded to break one half down into slices about ¼ inch thick then turned them and cut them into batons. Those went into a dry skillet to render and crisp while our pasta water boiled, and we set the rest aside for later use.

We wanted an ultra-rich carbonara, so four gorgeous Wishing Stone Farm eggs went into a big serving bowl, where they were joined by about ¼ cup each of finely grated Parmagiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano and several grindings of pepper. Our pantry is filled with pasta of all shapes and sizes, but somehow we were out of spaghetti, so I decided to substitute chitarra, figuring the rough texture of the pasta would really help the sauce to cling to the strands. When it was al dente, we added it straight into the serving bowl with the egg and cheese mixture, a little at a time, stirring gently after each addition of pasta. The browned jowl and all its fragrant rendered fat went in next, with a little splash of the pasta water added to lighten it, and again we tossed the pasta gently so everything was evenly coated.

chitarra

While Mike got our wine ready, I plated, adding some of the pasta to our bowls, grating a bit more cheese over the top, and placing a single egg yolk in the middle of each serving. I finished each plate with a bit of chopped fresh parsley and another dusting of black pepper, then served them. That extra yolk was perhaps a bit over the top, but so worth it – every bite was creamy and rich, punctuated by the occasional sharp bite of pepper and nuggets of sweet, earthy pork.

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