19 February 2011

Lemon and Mushroom Carbonara

I had big, if vague, plans for dinner last night. There was going to be chicken, and marmalade, and caramelized onions were going to get a look in, and who knows what other exciting things. It was going to be a hodge-podge of super.

And then I looked in the fridge and in the freezer and instead of having four chicken breasts, like I thought, we had exactly zero. So I decided to do burger and chips. But we don't have chips. So I actually had to cook. Carbonara seemed the best way to go, to use up bacon and cream, and then we bought some mushrooms a while ago, and a lemon had been sitting mournfully on its own in the fridge for god-knows-how-long, and - well, dinner happened.

Dinner was good. It was fragrant (I love the smell of lemon) and spicy with the chilli powder: eminently refreshing, and nice to cook. It was slightly too sharp for me, by which I mean after I ate half my meal my throat was burning, so I've scaled back my measurements a little for this recipe, but Tom enjoyed it. The enokitake mushrooms (which Tom will eat! Hurrah!) are chewy, so be warned if that's not your thing, but add a delicious meatiness to a nearly-vegetarian meal. (Feel free to leave the bacon out and call it 'pasta with lemon mushroom sauce', if you prefer.)

Lemon and Mushroom Carbonara
Serves 2

150g spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter (plus some oil, optional)
1 bunch enokitake mushrooms
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
4 rashers bacon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
1 egg

Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions while you make the sauce.

Cut the bottom off the enokitake bunch and wash thoroughly to remove any dirt. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat and cook the mushrooms until they are slightly wilted.

Chop the onion and garlic, and slice the bacon into thin strips, and add to the pan. Turn the heat up to medium and continue cooking until everything has some colour to it.

Add the white wine vinegar (or simply white wine) to the pan and allow to steam for about two minutes. Pour in the cup of cream and stir through. Add oregano, chilli powder and seasoning and leave to simmer on a low flame.

Zest the lemon. Reserve some zest (about half a teaspoon) to sprinkle over your meal before serving, and dump the rest into the sauce pan. Taste to see if you need to juice the lemon and add more lemony flavour - I definitely didn't.

Add the quarter-cup of grated Parmesan to the sauce pan and allow to melt.

By now the spaghetti should be done: reserve about a cup of the pasta water, drain, and add the spaghetti to the sauce pan. Stir to coat the pasta, leaving the heat on, adding the cup of pasta water if necessary.

Once everything is hot and mixed, turn the heat off and break one egg into the pan. Stir for about a minute and a half, by which time the egg should be cooked.

Serve, sprinkle with the leftover zest and cheese, and eat.