June 20, 2011 - 12:24pm
pasta carbonara raw egg question
Pasta carbonara is one of our favorites. But I often cook for groups or dinner guests and I am a bit concerned about the way the recipe handles raw eggs. Does the warm pasta really cook the egg??
When you say warm pasta, do you mean right out of the boiling pasta water?
The whole dish congeals so quickly, as you know, so it has to be done very fast and very hot. When I make it, everyone is at the table with fork in hand before I combine everything into the final dish.
There's always a risk with raw eggs, but eggs in carbonara will be fully cooked by the time it reaches your fork...if and only if the dish comes together the second the pasta is drained.
A tip I think I got from Cooks Illustrated: the first thing I do is *put the serving bowl in the oven at 200 F* before even boiling the water for the pasta. You prepare the final dish in this bowl, which is still very hot when it all comes together. If the bowl isn't very hot (requiring mittens to bring it to the table) and the carbonara isn't steaming, I probably wouldn't eat it.
I personally don't worry about it but...it is certainly a legitimate concern. The 200 degreee suggestion from Cook's Ilustrated and FAST finishing (mixing of pasta, eggs, etc) will help... I have no experience with them but pasteurized eggs are now available for use in dishes that use raw eggs. I have been meaning to try them but... have not. Anyone have experience with them?
I've tried them before and was wholly unimpressed. They don't taste like eggs anymore. They taste like...like...like...they have no taste. It's quite strange, like eating those eggs they sell in the carton. And they're expensive! Easily 3x the cost.
That was what I was afraid of! The act of pasteurizing them shouldn't do much to the taste, but I kind of suspected they were probably using it as a way to elevate the price of mediocre eggs!
Just read this article: http://news.discovery.com/human/egg-salmonella-bacteria.html
The take away, at least for me, is to buy eggs from an industrial egg producer. Those eggs won't be the best, but an industrial producer (i.e. eggs from Costco instead of the Farmers Market) will be more likely to have strict quality control in place (more likely than, say, a poultry farmer that collects the eggs hours after the hen lays them).
The foodie in me wants to go to the Farmers Market to buy eggs for carbonara, but now that I know a bit more about how salmonella gets into eggs (and what makes it flourish), I think I'll stay away from Farmers Market eggs and buy industrial ones, at least for carbonara, Caesar salad dressing, Hollandaise, etc.
Keep your own hens, then you can be sure of the provenance of your eggs and vaccinate your hens against salmonella. Unfortunately our hens have stopped laying - or have found somewhere nicer to lay than the hen house.
As for carbonara, if the pasta is too hot when you add the eggs you can end up with pasta and scrambled eggs, not nice :(
I wouldn't lay any eggs for you either if you kept sticking me with needles.
Me neither, can't stand them meself, either. On the bright side, it is a one-off vaccination! I frequently make fresh mayo with the raw eggs from our hens and so (so far- touch wood) never had a problem - and fresh homemade mayo is as different to Hellmans as artisan bread is to supermarket "plastic" bread!!
I did not know that about mayo. My wife loves the stuff. Do you have a recipe you can share???
I don't have a very detailed recipe but I can give you the principles that I use, the remainder is down to personal taste.
I use a Magimix food processor but any similar machine would do. You can whisk it all together by hand if you wish (or have to) but it is a long job!
Ingredients (volumes of oil will depend on the amount of egg, everything else is required but exact quantites depend upon your taste)
white wine vinegar
lemon juice (preferably fresh)
mustard of choice (being a Brit I use English - or Dijon at a push)
Grapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil - NOT canola - but sunflower or similar more healthy oil - but Extra Virgin rapeseed oil would be OK and you can use mild olive oil if you wish - in which case you may use less of the next ingredient)
Extra Virgin Olive oil (you can leave this out if you want a less robustly flavoured mayo)
Put one whole egg and one egg yolk into the processor; add 1g to 2g salt, a dessert spoonful of white wine vinegar and one dessert spoonful of lemon juice, then 20 turns of a black pepper mill and a level teaspoon of your mustard of choice. Start the processor and let it run for 30 seconds to blend everything - the mixture should turn a shade or two lighter as air is introduced into it.
Pour the flavourless oil into the processor in a slow steady stream, whilst the processor is still running (you can occasionally stop adding the oil to give the mixture time to emulsify a little. Change to the EVO when you have added about 200ml of the flavourless oil and add 60 to 100ml of EVO (depending upon the flavour you are seeking to achieve - if there is too much EVO in the emulsion it can taste bitter but 2 to 5 hours maturing can cure that).
By now you should be getting a mayo like emulsion and it should be creating waves around the blades and moving around the processor bowl. If not, add a little more of the flavourless oil until this is achieved.
Now is the time to stop the processor and taste the emulsion. If it is not thick enough you will need to add more oil (with the processor running) and you can also adjust the flavour with a little more mustard, salt or pepper (I prefer ground white pepper at this point to avoid too many "black bits" in the mayo). More lemon juice can be added but this must be done in small quantites, fully incorporated by adding a liitle more oil to stiffen the emulsion before you add more juice. Keep the processor running when you do this. Finally, stop processing when you have a good thick consistency.
I know that this may sound daunting but it is quite easy when you can see it all coming together. I failed the first time or two I tried it, probably because I under-processed the mixture and didn't achieve a good emulsion.
The great thing about making your own mayo is that you can adjust the flavour to your taste and what you are eating it with, so you can add more lemon flavour if you are going to eat it with fish. I sometime use some high-end lemon flavoured olive oil (no more than about 20ml because the one I use is very strongly flavoured) to enhance the lemon flavour and because it is easier to incorporate towards the end of the process than lemon juice is. You could also add a couple of crushed garlic cloves to make the most delicious aioli.
Good Luck, I hope you enjoy it - and I make no apology for spelling flavour correctly, that's us Brits for you! ;)
-- As another thought; if you use one or two egg yolks only and go easy on the seasoning, then add hot clarified butter instead of the oils, you get hollandaise (the hot butter should cook the egg yolks so the original purpose of this post is not an issue). I make this in the small processor bowl and only had a failure when I used a "lemon juice substitute". Generally I clarify about 125 to 150g of good, unsalted French butter depending upon how many yolks you use.
edited 23 June to correct weight of salt
Just a warning - DON'T use olive oil to make mayo in the food processor - by hand is fine. The food processor brings out a very bitter flavor from the olive oil and make the mayo very nasty. I did this once and got a lot of weird comments from my family about my mayo. I didn't understand what happened until I watched a show on food network where they made mayo and they explained this (I think it was Good Eats). Anyway, just a warning so you won't waste your expensive olive oil:)
I make pesto in the blender and always thought the bitterness was due to the basil from a pot out on the front steps. Can a whirring blade make olive oil bitter? It seems to be the case -- see http://summertomato.com/the-bitter-truth-about-olive-oil/
Ya learn something new every day!
EVO is fine in processor-made mayo - so long as you don't use too much. My recipe uses mainly grapeseed oil with just a small quantity of EVO to enhance the flavour (and colour). In fact, I make a batch yesterday and used a mixture of grapeseed oil (about 225ml), about 50 ml to 70 ml of EVO and about 70 ml of mild and light olive oil and, as the article suggests for hand-whisked mayo, I always add the EVO after the other oil(s). I needed so much oil for this batch because I chose to use bottled, pure, lemon juice instead of fresh but I didn't notice that the dropper top had stuck in the cap and I added about 3 tablespoonsful instead of 3 teaspoonsful!! Still, the texture and flavour were fine after about 1 hour equalising and I have found that if you use too much EVO and get something of a bitter taste, it will often mellow after a few hours.
As an aside, I once asked for mayonnaise to accompany a fresh lobster I had ordered and the restaurant had to make it. They used all EVO and it was really rather too strongly flavoured for the shellfish (although not particularly bitter) so I would recommend a mixture of oils, even when making mayo by hand (but some UK chefs advocate using entirely extra virgin rapeseed oil but I am not fond of it either).
HeidiH - I have no experience of how to prevent a bitter taste in pesto made using a processor - but you could try avoiding EVO or only using a small amount, in conjunction with lighter oils.
I sometimes bomb my mayo with too much of lemon or mustard or use an overly potent olive oil. When I do, I just push onwards and make a garlic aioli. That overpowers just about everything! Muhahaha! Gaaaaaarlic.
great with seafood and fish stews
That's when you get the quizzical look and then the question, "But why is is yellowish?" (Grrrrr.)
An industrial egg producer like these? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38741401/ns/health-food_safety
I'm imagining the sound of 500,000,000 hens laying an egg all at once. Yes, yes, that's exactly the ones I mean. Ooops? Ooops, indeed. Then again, those odds are worse than the Powerball lottery, as long as I use only a couple. ;)
Let's just say that if you lived in Iowa, as I do, then you might have been very happy that you were using powdered whole eggs, as I was at the time.
I had some of those eggs. I'm glad I didn't actually do sunny side up eggs with them. I threw them away once I knew about the recall, but I'd eaten a few out of the package. :/
A while back, The Mother Earth News (before it was refactored as a glossy pop rag) ran tests on eggs to determine how long eggs could be kept, and what method(s) should be used.
In a nutshell, or eggshell if you prefer, eggs could be kept at least 90 days, either refrigerated or not. Non-refrigerated outlasted refrigerated by a trivial margin, with the caveat that once refrigerated, they should remain refrigerated, else the keeping qualities were compromised.
The one take-away from the article, the controlling factor, is that the eggs should not be washed until immediately before use. There is a coating, the "bloom", that seals the shell against inward migration of e.coli and salmonella through the shell. The inside of the egg is pretty much sterile, the outside not so much. Once the bloom is removed, the shell is no longer impervious, and keeping qualities decline.
My own practice for raw egg recipes is to use a vegetable brush, under running water to remove the bloom and surface bacteria prior to cracking the shell.
I guess my grandmother had sound reasoning. She'd move the eggs from the hen house to a dark, cool, dry pantry and not touch them until she was ready to use them.
She'd put them in a bowl of heavily salted water for an hour or so before using them in a recipe, I'm guessing to kill the nasties on the shell?
It used to be that all we worried about was infections carried on the shells of the eggs from fecal material smeared on while the finished egg was being laid. It turns out that if the chicken is actually infected, the eggs that it lays are also infected, prior to the shell being deposited on the outside. Thus, washing the eggs would not help because the infection is inside the shell.
Apparently the same thing is true of vegetables in another sense. If they have been watered with contaminated water, no amount of scrubbing is going to remove the danger. The disease organisms are inside the tissue of the plant. This information came out during the recent bean sprouts problem.
This is something we have known about in the UK since at least 1988, when a junior government minister called Edwina Currie (soon rechristened Eggwina) declared that the majority of British eggs were infected with salmonella. Whilst not entirely accurate she did publically highlight a problem in the egg production industry in the UK. She was forced to resign and never held high office again but she did bring about a major change such that it is now very rare for a British produced egg to be infected with salmonella. Even so, the warnings about raw egg consumption by the elderly and the pregnant are still given. My 80+ year old mother has frequently eaten my own mayonnaise, made using raw eggs from our own hens, with no ill effects.
You may be more aware of the BSE (bovine spongiform encphalopathy) concerns over British beef a few years back that is thought to have resulted from contaminated feed. Again, this crisis forced a major review of methods and has resulted in significant changes in farming practice, such that BSE no longer occurs in British beef cattle.
Bagged salads can also present a health risk, including Ecoli, if they have been washed in contaminated water before being bagged (and the bags are normally filled with a "modified atmosphere" that keeps the plants fresh but which imparts a bitter taste to the leaves).
The answer is - grow your own but if you can't do that buy from a source that you can trust,
Here's the Cook's Illustrate recipe. It's all over the internet, so I guess it's fair to use at this point.
A very good recipe it is too.
A good (and fun) loaf with this is Reinhart's Pane Siciliano.
Tip. The white wine is essential. It's far too rich without the acidity.
Many thanks to thomaschacon75 for the Cooks Illustrated Carbonara. The challenge I have always found is to get the pasta nicely coated with the egg/cheese mixture while avoiding leaving (and losing) a coating of scrambled egg on the heated bowl or pan. Notwithstanding Ruralidle's comments about Eggwina Currie, I take a fairly robust view on Brit eggs - provided I know where they come from.
I have to say that the addition of wine to the fried bacon seems odd to me. The big argument in Italy seems to be between the choice of pancetta and guanciale (and BTW there are many clips on Y** T*b* on this aspect for carbonara fanciers ...) . The latter is cured pigs cheek (and I think specifically Neapolitan, or at least southern), while the former is more like British smoked streaky bacon. The idea being that the fat in the guanciale (and it is very fatty) lubricates the pasta before one adds the egg mixture. The guanciale/pancetta is cut into litle batons about 6mm/1/4" squre - when fried they yield up their delicious fat. Normally sliced bacon does not quite do the same thing.
Does anyone have a view on this difficult area?
A part of a Rick Stein's Mediteranean Escapes programme was included in another UK programme last Saturday (Saturday Kitchen live) with a recipe for carbonara http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/spaghettiallacarbona_86763 . Rick made the point that the traditional cheese to use in this dish is pecorino NOT parmesan. Rick Stein in my favourite UK TV chef because of his clear love of food (particularly seafood) and it was always interesting to see his journeys to artisan producers and the scrapes that his Jack Russell dog "Chalkie" would get into when they got there.
Ruralide: Many thanks for that. I haven't seen any of the TV shows, but an October lunch at Padstow was a treat. I entirely agree with the Stein procedure, tho I would take a wider view on the choice of cheese (for example, Italian food laws allow for Sardo Pecorino to be produced in the mainland province of Lazio ... could one use Pecorino Romano therefore?). For a dish that was originally associated with Neapolitan charcoal burners, I have always felt that the word 'creamy' was inappropriate - especially adding actual cream.
In passing I would add that I find making a tolerably perfect poached egg just as difficult as achieving a dish of spaghetti carbonara nicely coated with egg (yolks or whole eggs au choix). Having tried many of the fail-safe poaching techniques, they all leave me with a ragged and lopsided egg with the yolk unevenly covered by the white. Hey Ho.
It's reassuring to hear that I am not the only one who can't produce a tidy poached egg. Although the ones you see on tv have usually been trimmed with scissors, I still struggle to get the white to evenly cover the yolk - even with a very fresh egg from our own hens.
In my experience the comment "more or less together" usually means less :) . That is the method that I use but, on balance, it doesn't work for me more often than it does. As you can tell from my earlier posts, I am relaxed about the risk of salmonella posed by eggs from our little flock. It is also worth noting that classic steak tartar (chopped raw fillet of beef, seasoned with salt, pepper and incorporating raw shallot and capers, formed into a patty and topped with a raw egg yolk) is returning to the menus of restaurants in the UK so something has happened to cause them to reassess the risks from raw beef and eggs.
Issue is overblown. It has been estimated that about 1 in 7 chickens may be infected, but only 1 in 30,000 eggs. The most "dangerous" estimate I've seen is 1 in 10,000. Further, most infected eggs have the salmonella on the shell, not the yolk or white.
Commercial establishments are obliged to use only pasteurized eggs by law (at least the jurisdiction I am aware of). That would make a little sense given the volume of eggs used. Home cooks are under no such obligation. Assuming you are not cooking for anyone who is immu-compromised, I wouldn't worry about it.
Note: I know of many establishments who have removed dishes from their menu rather than serve a sub-par dish made with pasteurized eggs.
Salmonella is not E. coli. The chances of getting sick are minimal, and the effects, while not pleasant, are usually nothing to get your shorts in a knot over.
I use fresh eggs from the grocery store for my Caesar dressing, carbonara, etc. Get informed and make your own decision