Bam! The Virgin Gets Pounded by Emeril's Carbonara

I love pasta. When I was a kid, my mom's best friend was a loudmouthed Italian woman who hosted the Christmas Eve party we attended every year. The evening's "entertainment" consisted of yelling and angry gestures. But the food was spectacular. Everyone would bring an Italian dish: spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, antipasto, manicotti. It was the culinary highlight of my year.

With fond childhood memories in mind, I decided to tackle a classic pasta carbonara recipe from Emeril Lagasse, the outspoken East Coast chef who would've fit right in at those holiday gatherings. Thankfully, I didn't have to bring the mess that resulted to a dinner party. 

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Freshly ground black pepper, salt
1 pound fresh spaghetti, cooked al dente
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

The Virgin gets egg on her face, after the jump...

Food Network star Emeril Lagasse premiered this recipe on Emeril Live back in 1999. It seemed easy enough.

The Virgin's DeStructions

1. First, cook the pasta 10-12 minutes until it's soft but with a bite (al dente). Not having spaghetti on hand, I substituted some whole wheat penne pasta for the longer strands. Drain and set aside.

2. Cook the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain it on paper towels. Keep the bacon drippings in the pan. Having used bacon in several of my previous Cooking Virgin recipes, I can say I'm now a pro at crisping the tasty porcine bits. Maybe I should put bacon in every dish I make from now on. Bacon omelets. Maple-bacon oatmeal. Chocolate bacon brittle. Bacon pudding. Ok, maybe not the pudding. 

3. Keep about three tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the pan and pour out the rest. Add the garlic and black pepper to the pan and sauté for thirty seconds. Or, if you're The Virgin, get distracted by the fact you haven't drained the pasta and burn the garlic bits into little flaming hunks of charcoal. Remove the charred lumps and try again. 

4. Toss in the crispy bacon and the pasta. That is, if it all fits in your pan. If you're left with pasta oozing over your pan lip onto the stove burners and bacon falling onto the counter, switch to a larger pan and wait for it to heat up again. Decide whether you want to follow the five-second rule for countertops slash stove burners and move the pasta mixture into the new pan. Saute for one minute.

5. Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Season with salt.

6. According to Emeril, this is where you take the skillet off of the heat and whisk in the eggs, "quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble." How the hell do you whisk eggs into pasta without scrambling them? My pasta looked like a sick fifth grader sneezed on it. Snot attractive at all. The Virgin's only recourse was to scramble the eggs in more until the leftover heat from the burner cooked them through.

7. Add the cup of parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the congealed yellowish pasta with fresh green parsley to cover up how gross it looks. Close your eyes and eat.

The result: The Virgin's carbonara was an Italian breakfast gone tragically wrong. It was pasty and thick, with gooey bits of yellowed eggs congealed throughout the mixture. Think cheesy bacon and egg scramble with pasta accidentally dumped in during the cooking process.

Though the texture was undesirable, the dish actually tasted pretty good. My husband consumed an entire bowl and went back for seconds -- and he's not the type to humor me by eating something that belongs on the bottom of a cat litter box. Dearest readers, where did this Cooking Virgin go wrong? Was my carbonara supposed to glisten with raw egg like a science experiment on the common cold?  


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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden