Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

My introduction to spaghetti alla carbonara was nothing less than ignoble. In the early ’90s, I encountered the recipe in a low-fat, low-cholesterol cookbook I had borrowed from my friend Diane, a stick-thin Stairmaster mistress. Diane, who has an impeccable palate, nonetheless wanted slim-down versions of her favorite dishes during the week so that she could splurge on the real thing during weekends. The recipe—which in its unadulterated form is rich with eggs, pancetta, grated cheese, and plenty of freshly ground pepper—was an anemic version of itself. The final dish was a concoction of egg substitute, artificial bacon bits and low-fat grated cheese. After a few bites, I decided to steer clear of the dish—and the book.

Five years later, on a trip to Italy, several friends and I were dining at Vecchia Roma, on the Piazza Campitelli in Rome, and there on the menu was spaghetti alla carbonara. I was resolute in my aversion, and instead ordered risotto with shrimp and whitefish—utterly delicious, but like an ABBA song, I couldn’t get carbonara out of my head. Read more »

Spanish Cod Fritters

Spanish Cod Fritters Recipe

As you know, I’m a thoroughbred Portagee (a nickname given unto my people, derogatory for sure). But I’ve embraced my inner pork chop—another needling dig—and have no qualms about who I am, what I’m called, and what I like. And one of the things I adore are bolinhos de bacalhau, or salt cod fritters. It would be considered cultural treason if I didn’t love these little fried nuggets of salt cod and potato goldenness. What’s not to love? We Portuguese have been marrying the two ingredients for centuries: Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (casserole of cod, sliced potatoes, onions, hard-boiled eggs, and olives), Bacalhau à Brás (scrambled eggs encasing shoestring potatoes and flakes of cod), Bacalhau Cozido com Todos (basically, boiled cod, potatoes, and vegetables), and—well, you get the idea.

So when The One and I recently went to Allium in Great Barrington, MA, and I took a look at the menu, for a moment everything around me went pleasantly fuzzy. Kind of like looking at the world through the wrong end of a smudgy telescope. There, at the top of the appetizer list, was bolinhos de bacalhau with harrisa aïoli. My countrymen were relying upon me, I told myself. So what if harrisa was a North African condiment? The real balls of the dish (pun intended) were the fritters. It was my national duty, being a citizen of Portugal, to order them. Read more »

We Heart Hearth

Braised Veal Breast Recipe

The One’s birthday extravaganza went off without a hitch. And I take back everything I said in my last post. The One overcame his Luddite ways and actually picked up the remote to fiddle with his new stereo, the crowds along Fifth Avenue were thinner than usual, the night wasn’t terribly cold, and the decorations were better than usual. (The ten-ton Norway spruce at Rockefeller Center was sparkling with predominantly green lights to symbolize its energy-saving feature: 30,000 LED bulbs, which were partially powered by solar panels atop of the Rock.)

The one thing I’m happy not to take back is our dinner at Marco Canora’s Hearth. It was a slam-dunk. (Holy cow, my first-ever sports metaphor.) When the hostess snaked us through the room and sat us at a four top, I was instantly plumped with self-importance. I was sure they knew who I was: David Leite, food writer. I expected the staff to bow and scrape in my exalted presence, but, instead, what to my wondering eyes did appear? A waiter who treated me (as well) as he did the other guests. No more, no less. My face began to set in that “Oh, no you din’t” expression—eyebrows arched, eyes half-lidded, mouth curled until bracketed by two deeply etched commas.

“I’m sure they’re secretly thrilled,” said The One, “and don’t want to make a fuss over you in public.” I knew it was a lie, but it was just the emotional grease I needed to slide me into the evening without pouting. Read more »

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