Kimchi Carbonara with Mafaldine and a Smoked Egg Yolk

As it has been said, you learn more from your failures than successes. Well, that is true for my experience with Carbonara. Early on in my cooking career, I ruined this dish regularly during hectic services. I was still learning the fundamentals and the nuances of cooking on a busy line. I can vividly remember attempting to render small diced pancetta on high heat while trying to run a saute station that was levels beyond my experience. I burnt that pancetta and my arm. On the second attempt, I did not correctly temper my eggs; instead of making a creamy sauce, I scrambled it. The third time the chef pushed me out of the way and did it himself. The tickets never stopped a sound that haunts anyone who has ever been a line cook. I swallowed my pride and kept going. I made it through that night one ticket at a time with the chef making the Carbonara whenever one came in until he finally 86ed it.

Carbonara taught me a lot about working a saute station and the importance of a strong understanding of cooking fundamentals. This experience also helped me understand what kind of chef I would grow to be. Early on in my career, I would put people on stations not adequately trained, in over the head to sink or swim. That is how I came up, but I realized that is lousy leadership. Mentoring and helping young cooks develop their skills and build their confidence ends with a lot fewer Carbonaras in the garbage.

Anyway, this kimchi carbonara version was born out of sharing a farmers market table with a friend who makes kimchi. I love how well Italian and Asian foods work together. The natural umami of parmesan plays well with the sour, spicy, umami of kimchi. And let's face it eggs and kimchi are meant to be together. (At least, that is how I feel). How could Kimchi Carbonara not be over the top delicious?

I went a step further, and cold smoked an additional egg yolk to put on top of the dish. This addition is not necessary but adds a beautiful smoky element to the plate. I recommend hickory wood; the lighter fruit woods gets lost in the sauce. To cold smoke, the egg yolk, use a smoking gun hand smoker. Place your egg yolks in a bowl with the smoker hose, Then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. I would do this close to the oven with the fan on; it will leak some smoke. I filled the bowl with smoke three times, letting it sit about four minutes each time. The result is an egg yolk full of smoked hickory flavor.

A quick note on tempering your egg: this is where mistakes happen. By understanding the purpose and a little bit of tempering science, you are less likely to do it incorrectly and curdle your eggs. This technique is one of those fundamentals that show up time and again in many recipes. So, master this and apply it to other sauces and desserts. Tempering is gently heating the yolks before adding them to your sauce, in this case, your Carbonara. It brings the egg yolks slowly to the same temperature as the sauce and preventing it from curdling. The curdling happens because the proteins in the yolk react to the heat and bond to each other. By slowly raising the heat, it denatures the proteins, and they don't freak out and instead form a lovely smooth emulsion.


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