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Beer And Food Tuesday: Carbonara Alla Morana

For those of you that have just joined the craft beer scene in the last couple of years, it’s worth pointing out that Bar Volo wasn’t always a beer bar with a light menu. At one point in the late 80’s, it was an Italian restaurant. After a while it became an Italian restaurant with beer. It further evolved into a beer bar with Italian food. Then came the nanobrewery and, with kitchen space at a premium, an expanding audience and wait times for food frequently outstripping forty minutes (about two pints, for those of you who tell time by pints), it became Bar Volo as it currently stands.

They changed with the times, somewhat to the chagrin of the regulars. Roger Pettet would sometimes ask me if I could write a blog piece about how the bar was changing, probably with the aim of stopping it from changing overmuch. The problem is that with Bar Volo being a leader in craft beer in Ontario, change was inevitable. It was not a bad thing, necessarily. People seem much happier getting fed quickly. So it goes.

The only issue that I had with the change is that Volo was responsible for a truly great pasta dish in their Carbonara. Periodically, when people wax nostalgic, the Carbonara comes up as one of the only examples of something they wish could come back. (The Puttanesca is also mentioned, as is the Pepperonata (at least by me)).

This is what Carbonara looked like when Volo used to cook it.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I could rectify that problem for people who missed the Carbonara. Since the Moranas aren’t using it anymore, they were pretty quick to supply me with it. I had tried to get the recipe previously, but it had been a long night and I discovered, after having it explained to me at great length, that I had no idea how the sound recorder on my Blackberry worked.

I emailed Ralph and he gave me the recipe, which I now impart to you:

Two Stages :
1. In a stainless steel bowl add
2 egg yolk
T parmigiana cheese
T Italian parsley
tsp salt
tsp pepper
tsp mixed dried herbs – basil & oregano
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
4T of 35% cream – (I just drizzle the cream in. You do not want too much because this is a dryer version of the Carbonara)
Add al dente spaghetti noodles (portion for one person)
Whisk all the ingredients.
Put aside until needed.

2. Heat a pan on medium low heat.
Add half of red onion medium thin slices.
Within 3 minutes add 2 diced smoked bacon.
When the onion and bacon are 3/4 of the way cooked raise the temperature to medium and add the mixture in the bowl.
Toss until all the ingredients are mix.
At this point I add a pinch of salt, pepper from a pepper mill and I grade ricotta salata cheese( asiago also works). I usually add about 2T of cheese and 2 diced fresh sage leaves.
Toss
Taste ( add more salt or pepper if needed)
Pasta is ready pending on how you like it. i like it on the crisp side.
I also like to add pancetta on top of the pasta.

I should point out that there are three things you need to know here.

My version doesn’t look nearly as good, but I don’t have a white plate or a DSLR Camera or any ability to plate food in an aesthetically pleasing way or the inclination to do so when I’m just ripping hungry and want to get to it already. Jeez.

1)      Since you’ve tempered the egg yolks with cream and the other ingredients prior to adding them to the pasta, you’re probably not going to scramble them. This is good news. It is still worth removing the pan from the heat to be safe.

2)      While ½ a red onion seems like a whole big bunch of red onion, it’s actually more or less right as long as you don’t choose the biggest one in the display.

3)      This is a restaurant size portion. At home, this could probably feed two, since it’s quite rich and very filling. I am slipping into food coma territory at the moment.

But what to drink?

Things people have sent me. I’m not sure where the one on the right came from, actually.

Well, people send me things. The fridge is so full that baking soda has developed agoraphobia.

GRANVILLE ISLAND LIONS WINTER ALE

When the folks at Creemore sent this stuff over, I was more excited about the Hops and Bolts. Call me a skeptic, but I haven’t really liked much of the Granville Island stuff I’ve tried. The Pale Ale is lodged squarely in the 80’s. The Hefeweizen is fair to middling.

The Lion’s Winter Ale is surprising in that it contents itself with a healthy bill of dark malts, a relatively creamy texture and a strong hit of vanilla. It is actually mildly reminiscent of Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodisiaque. I was a little shocked that the pairing works here. The sweetness of the malt and the vanilla actually play with the caramelization that the onions have gone through and there’s enough carbonation to lift the fat off the palate and refresh for the next bite. Oddly enough, the texture is the big thing. It’s creamy enough to play to the sauce while stripping it off your tongue.

I shouldn’t be surprised given that the Granvillers provided this recipe for pairing.

CAMERON’S RPA

It is always good to choose appropriate glassware. In this case, I’ve chosen branding over propriety.

As I think we’re all aware, Cameron’s RPA is one of the better IPAs available in Ontario at the moment. It’s going into year round production soon. It has five malts, seven hop varieties and at least one hand picked variety of water. It’s delicious. It may not have a whole lot of noticeable rye character, but who cares when the overall product is this good? Caramel Malt and Pine and Citrus and Tropical Fruit and Joy.

It paired terribly. The hops just blew the Carbonara out of the damn water. It’s too big. It’s too bitter. It somehow fails to cut the fat in the cream sauce and the bitterness coats the tongue. If there was a single ingredient it might have had some interplay with it was the oregano. Not enough.

Don’t get me wrong. Love the beer, but this application was a loser. It was a bad choice on my part.

AECHT SCHLENKERLA RAUCHBIER

I was dreading this one.

Ralph suggested a smoked beer. I haven’t ever really liked this beer, but it was the smoked beer that I had on hand. Sometimes I’ll use it to braise a pork shoulder.

I don’t know if it’s ingredient creep, but the smoked malt doesn’t seem as pronounced as it once did. Probably, a slight whiff of smoke in Imperial Stouts is acclimatizing me. What it manages to do very nicely is accentuate the bacon and the smoke there, and in turn the salt content. There’s enough malt character to hold its own against the onions.

While it worked nicely as a pairing, I still didn’t quite manage to finish the bottle, although I admit that in the proper culinary application, this works. It’s just that I wouldn’t drink it without food.

WHAT DID WE LEARN

Oddly, the winner here in terms of pairing was Granville Island Lions Winter Ale. The shocking thing is that it might work even better if you throw a pinch of nutmeg at the cream sauce. I’ve seen that in some carbonara recipes.

Also, we learned that it is good to be friends with Ralph Morana. He’s the Godfather of the Ontario Craft Beer Scene. If you go against the Morana family, you might wake up with the neck of a bottle of Rolling Rock next to you.