Literary Recipe (The Pasta Papers): Stephen Hawking’s Carbonara


Stephen Hawking’s Radiated Carbonara

“In effect, we have redefined the task of science to be the discovery of laws that will enable us to predict events up to the limits set by the uncertainty principle.” A Brief History of Time. Rest in peace…

One dumb undergrad*
Pasta dough (or 320 grams or so of long pasta)
200 grams of bacon (or guanciale the more so, pig cheek)
4-6 egg yolks (farm fresh, from somewhere chickens still live like, well, chickens)
1-2 egg whites
Grated Parmesan and pecorino romano, or one softly flavored, aged sheep cheese
Salt and pepper
Mint or Mentuccia (optional)
a few drops of cool milk or cream (as necessary)
*preferably without a spouse or children

Serves 4.

Contain an incredibly large, dense mass in your kitchen. Hide it behind a door that says ‘loo’ or ‘bathroom’. Invite a dumb undergrad over, (any faculty will do though economics would be preferable,) telling him or her you want them to take part in a revolutionary experiment. When he gets to your house, have him sit down and then slowly explain to him about black holes. (Don’t worry if you make a mistake or two. He’s dumb, so he’ll never know the difference.) Pour him plenty of beer as you do. When he asks to use the loo, show him to the door behind which you’ve hidden the black hole – but remember to give him the pasta dough before he steps inside. (Tell him it’s soap or something. As mentioned above, it won’t matter.) As soon as he enters the strong gravitational field, have some fun noting him becoming increasingly terrified, in slow motion, as he nears the event horizon. You wont hear any sounds as by the time he starts to scream the sound waves won’t be able to escape the black hole.

While the dough and undergraduate are being turned into spaghetti by the massive gravity field, boil some water and gently fry the diced bacon or pig cheek in a large pan with just a few drops of olive oil. Remove the bacon once it’s crispy. Pasteurize the egg yolks after whipping them a little by double boiling, stirring and working the yolk constantly so as not to have them turn sold, in and out of the water for about 5-6 minutes. Once the spaghetti and undergrad have been expelled from the black hole, separate them, and boil the spaghetti. Then first toss the spaghetti with the rendered pork fat and a little bit of the cooking water from the pasta, then mix the spaghetti with the raw egg yolks (removed from the heat, maybe re-place over the flame for a few seconds to get to the right texture: creamy, not watery.) Then add some grated cheese, the crispy bacon bits then finally top with freshly ground black pepper. Take the spaghettied undergrad, instead, and slide him back into the black hole.

Miraculously he’ll come out again in reverse with another package of pasta in his hand. I’ll explain that some other time. Now it’s time to eat the Carbonara while still warm.

The real recipe: 
Ingredients – see above
….see the penultimate paragraph. On low heat, slowly ‘sweat’ small pieces of bacon or pig cheek, rendering their fat, until they’re crispy, then remove onto a paper towel. It’ll take time, 10-15 minutes or so. Put 80-90 grams or so of spaghetti into boiling salted water, to cook (you can flavor the water with some mint leaves, if liked.) In a mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks, then pasteurize them by working it fluid with a whisker at first, then a spoon, in a double boiler until they have the texture of a watery mayonnaise (until just before they just begin to solidify.) Remove when ready and just add a drop of cream or milk or transfer into a cool bowl to immediately cool. Mix a little egg white as well, if you like the added texture, separately. When the pasta is almost done, scoop some of its cooking water and mix with the rendered pig fat, in the latter’s pan. Drain the noodles partially and place them into the pan as well, saute over high heat, adding more cooking water if necessary. (It’s about here, a moment before putting in the noodles, you can add a bit of mentuccia, mint leaf, but only a little.) Remove from heat, add first the egg white (one) and mix again over the heat a few seconds, remove again from heat and add the yolks (3), mix, and toss a few more seconds over the heat if you like the condiment thicker but remove before the thing turns into an omelette. Plate, then generously sprinkle with some grated, decent pecorino romano or with a soft flavored, aged sheep cheese, then some freshly grated black pepper and the crispy bacon or pig cheek bits. Goes well with a structured white or table red. Serves 4.

link – some small talk stuff about Stephen Hawking:

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