Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Comfort Food

The other day I went on a date.
I drank three glasses of wine.
I hadn't had dinner.

Somehow, the planets were aligned and despite the set-up, disaster did not ensue. However, I did eat an entire blue box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese when I got home because I was so tipsy-hungry. I even forgot the truffle salt. I blame the third glass of wine for that.

The next morning, I went to the gym before work. Normally, when I go to the gym, I suffer through about ten minutes of running on the treadmill as a warm up and then I move on to the weights, or the bike, or the elliptical or whatever strikes me that day. I like to mix it up. I have serious ADHD at the gym.

But that morning, I ran. And ran. And ran. For thirty-five whole minutes. 35! I hate running. But I had so much...energy.

I wish I could credit the date with this inspired effort on the treadmill, but I'm pretty sure it's because I basically carbo-loaded the night before. Not that the date wasn't fun. It was.

And then the light bulb went on. Perhaps...I should eat a few more carbs at dinner when I know I'm working out in the morning.

So that night, I made an old pasta favorite for dinner: Scrambled Egg Pasta.

This is a recipe that I concocted several years ago as a riff on the Spaghetti Carbonara I ate almost daily when I was studying abroad in Italy. Oh, to have the metabolism of a 20-year old again...gelato three times a day - breakfast, snack, and dessert - and enough pasta to fuel all the runners of the Boston Marathon. Sigh. 

I love Scrambled Egg Pasta because it's easy and fast and readily made with ingredients I have in the pantry or in the freezer. It's great when I'm tired. Or cold. And hungry. And it's adaptable to whatever fresh produce I have. There aren't really measurements because I usually just throw this together using whatever I've got at home but I've tried to estimate so you have an actual recipe to work from. Honestly, this is hard to screw up. Play with it.

Most of the time, I just use frozen peas for this, but I have a serious case of Spring fever, so I bought fresh English peas from the market and spent some time shelling them. I love doing things like shelling peas. I am half farmgirl on the inside, I swear. Always have been. Despite never having had an actual farm. Honestly, I don't even need a farm. I just want a big garden. And a couple of fruit trees. A Meyer lemon, for sure.

Fresh spring peas! To be honest, they were kind of starchy, although the shelling exercise was fun.

Kate's Scrambled Egg Pasta
Serves one person who really likes running, or two of me.

 2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan (good parmigiano please!), freshly grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2(ish) tablespoons milk or cream (optional)
Pasta - quantity depends on how much running you need to do.  I love this recipe most with tagliatelle but spaghetti, linguine, angel hair, etc. will work
1 cup of peas - frozen work great for this - I always have some in the freezer. They are also helpful when I need an icepack.
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
About 1/4 cup onion or shallot, finely chopped
Red pepper flakes (I probably put in a full teaspoon)
Canadian bacon or thick-sliced ham (as in ham steak), trimmed and cut into ~ 1/2" square pieces (One of the few acceptable uses of ham in my world.)

Prep the egg sauce first. Combine the eggs, parmesan, and a couple of twists of pepper with a fork in a small bowl. Add a touch of milk or cream if you have some and beat to combine. Set aside, near the stove, because when it's time to add this, you have to act quickly.
Heat water in a pot to boiling. Add salt and the pasta. When the water resumes boiling, add the peas. Cook the peas for a few minutes, then remove peas with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl while continuing to cook the pasta.

Peas and pasta boiling harmoniously.

While the water is heating, heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat with the olive oil/butter. When shimmering or foam has subsided, add the onion/shallot. Saute until golden brown, then add the pepper flakes and saute for a minute. Add the ham and continue sauteing until the ham is browned in spots. 

Scoop out a bit of the pasta cooking water and put it in the pan, along with the cooked peas. Scrape the pan to get up the browned bits and let simmer until the water is quite reduced. 

In the meantime, drain the pasta and toss it into the frying pan. Combine it with the peas/ham (I suggest using tongs for this move.) Don't toss it too much as you want it to stay super-hot. Just enough to mix everything.

Turn the heat to low and after a minute (so the pan has cooled a bit) pour in the eggs atop the pasta etc. Begin tossing the pasta and ham and peas and eggs rapidly, until all the pasta is coated with a lightly scrambled egg sauce. (If you get big chunks of eggs happening, then the pan is too hot and next time you'll need to turn it down more.) 

Once the sauce is semi-cooked, you're done. (There should be no visible runny eggs at this point, just a creamy sauce.) Add some more parmesan on top, along with a couple more twists of black pepper, and mangia!

The whole recipe takes 20 minutes, tops, once you get the orchestration of steps down. 

Some variations you might want to consider:
Thinly sliced leeks in place of the onion or shallot
Sliced mushrooms sauteed with the onion
A little dried oregano or marjoram added at the same time as the red pepper flakes
Leftovers served with a poached egg!

1 comment:

Some Other Valerie said...

So Wonderful! I shared this recipe on my facebook page. I like your story about eating the whole box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and running, too.