Pasta alla carbonara is a wonderful thing. It’s cream and egg, warmed slightly, then tossed with parmesan cheese, bacon and pasta hot enough to finish cooking the cream and egg. The pasta is usually either spaghetti or fettuccine. It is a showstopper when you toss the pasta and sauce at the table while guests look on with eager anticipation. The scent of parmesan hitting the hot pasta is captivating. This dish is so rich and wicked that I rarely make it. When I do, there’s never any left over and we always use a chunk of baguette to get the last bit of creamy sauce out of our bowls.
I ran across a recipe for a raw corn carbonara that whetted my appetite. It is so very good I made it two nights in a row. Of course I did a little tweaking the second night.
The first night I made a half recipe and used it as a side dish. That was a night of experimentation. Other elements in the experiment were fried green tomatoes two ways and a Williams Sonoma rub based on dried Sriracha hot sauce.
I’ll be making fried green tomatoes at our local farmers market in September. It is something I do for the Master Gardeners every fall. I slice big green tomatoes about 3/8 inch thick, dredge them in white flour, dip in egg beaters and finally in corn meal. I fry then in canola oil until the crust is golden crisp. My fried green tomatoes warm a southern guys heart! I did a coupe of tomato slices with corn meal and then tried a couple of slices with panko crumbs. I really like the crisp panko crust and my next plan is to mix corn meal and panko so I’ll have the crunch and the corn meal flavor.
I mentioned getting my meat cutter to start cutting thick pork chops again. He’s still doing it so I showed my gratitude by buying more. I used the Sriracha rub generously on both sides of the chops and let them sit about half an hour. I seared the chops on one side of my grill, then transferred them to the other side where I had not ignited the burners. I closed the lid and let them finish in the indirect heat. It keeps them moist and tender that way.
Who can top a meal that has both bacon and pork chops on the plate!
RAW CORN CARBONARA
Four servings; the recipe can easily be halved.
12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/4″ strips
4 ears of corn, kernels cut off (about 3 cups), cobs reserved
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces), plus more to serve
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped, divided
Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain (reserve fat).
Shuck and remove the silks from the corn and, holding it upright in a shallow bowl, cut the kernels off the cobs. Scrape excess corn milk from cobs over the kernels by firmly running the back of a chef’s knife down the sides. Add cream, half of the corn kernels, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 2 Tbsp. reserved bacon fat. Purée until a smooth sauce forms.
Toss hot pasta with corn sauce, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and half each of the remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil in a large bowl. Divide pasta among bowls and top with remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil. Season with pepper and top with Parmesan.
MY TWEAK ON RAW CORN CARBONARA
The second time around, I again made a half recipe. I substituted 3 oz prosciutto chopped and crisped a bit in a fry pan. There were virtually no drippings, so I tossed a couple of teaspoons into the blender with the corn and cream.
This dish with a simple side salad would have been great as a meal. Of course, I had to mess with it a little bit. I admit I am a great fan of Williams Sonoma rubs and have at least half a dozen different ones in my pantry. I got out the Meyer lemon and ground pepper rub and sprinkled it on raw shrimp. I let them sit at room temperature while I made the carbonara, then gave them a quick sauté and served them as a protein garnish on the pasta.
This raw corn version of a carbonara is sweetened by the fresh raw corn and, because it doesn’t have egg and only has 8 oz cream in the whole recipe (a quarter cup in the half recipe version) it more guilt free than the true carbonara.