Guanciale. Face bacon. It's one of those things that used to only be available in Italy. Thankfully, I live in Iowa. Pig-riddled Iowa. Even more important than the number of pigs in my state, is the existance of La Quercia. The classic Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Charcoal Maker's Spaghetti) is probably the most famous dish that features guanciale. Now the logistics of a move and buying and selling of houses has kept me from doing the pork-related experimentation I've planned, but in the meantime, I had a pound of guanciale in the fridge begging to be used. So carbonara it is. I more or less followed Lynn Rosetto-Kasper's Italian Country Table recipe. First, I sliced the guanciale into roughly 1/8" inch slices and then tried to cut them crosswise into 1/4" inch pieces. Fry these up in a little olive oil on medium heat until they start to get crispy, then pull them off the heat and cover them.
Meanwhile, fire up a pot of water to boil the pasta. Crack 4 eggs into a bowl, season them with some salt and pepper. I got these eggs from my coworker Carey, and they have these beautiful dark yolks, the kind of dark yolks that only come from chickens that spend time outside. Blend in a little grated pecorino romano cheese with the eggs.
Just before the pasta is done pull out about 1/4 c of pasta water and add it to the reserved guanciale and return it to medium-low heat. Drain the pasta and add it to the guanciale and begin to stir the mixture. Turn off the heat and stir in the egg/cheese mixture until the eggs are set. Season with salt (if necessary) and lots of black pepper. At the table stir in more pecorino romano.
The verdict? Delicious. Decadent, but worth it. The kids loved it. Isaac awarding it an arbitrary (and so very Parker-y) 25 thumbs up. Speaking of wine, our wine for the evening was a rather soft and unassuming Cotes du Rhone from La Grange de Piauger. I'm no great lover of grenache, but the softness worked nicely with the pasta. As for my opinion of the pasta I loved it. It was bright, ther herbal character of the guanciale shone through and the mouthfeel was unctuous and wonderful. Apparently texture is one of the reasons that guanciale is key to carbonara. There is much more collagen in guanciale than in pork belly, and this lends a silky texture to the pasta. Wonderful. Next time I make this I hope to do it with my own guanciale.