One of the toughest parts of blogging for me has been finding inspiration. Most of the time, it's about as easy as breathing - no matter what I'm doing, a small part of my brain is constantly thinking about memorable meals, interesting ingredients, new flavour combinations, or any other number of food-related things. Every so often, though, I seem to run out of steam and fall into a bit of a rut.
Which is pretty much where I'm at right now.
Since I draw so much inspiration from the seasons, March and April tend to be difficult months - by this point, I'm beyond tired of winter foods like stews and braises and hearty fare in general, but the first of the spring vegetables won't be showing up in the farmers' markets until mid-May at the earliest.
To add insult to injury, my last few recipe experiments turned out to be dismal failures, including a batch of Strawberry Black Tea Scones I was particularly fired up about. They photographed beautifully, but despite my fervent desire to love them, the flavour and texture just weren't right.
I just feel... well... meh.
It's not that I'm starving, mind you (I mean, this is me we're talking about... the girl better known as Born With Mouth Open). I find myself making a lot of quick, simple, unfussy sorts of dinners - grilled sausages with veggies and mash, cheese tortellini in a simple tomato sauce, chunky chicken noodle soup, and bread-and-meat-and-cheese platters. All perfectly cromulent meals, obviously, but hardly worth blogging about.
I did whip up one noteworthy dish recently, though. This Mushroom Carbonara Pasta has all the right elements I look for in a blog-worthy dish - it's quick and easy, but it tastes rich and indulgent and rather impressive. It doesn't feel like a whip-together-in-under-30-minutes dish at all, and yet... it totally is.
Of course, sufficient quantities of cream and eggs and cheese (like those found in a carbonara sauce) could make even an old shoe taste rich and indulgent and rather impressive, but that's beside the point.
- 1 cup diced pancetta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
- ¼ cup finely minced shallot
- 500g (1 lb) penne or rigatoni pasta
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup whipping cream
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
- Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Chopped fresh parsley
- In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, saute the pancetta in olive oil for 5 minutes or until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel to drain, leaving drippings in the skillet. Add mushrooms, shallots and garlic to the skillet. Saute for 7-10 minutes or until mushrooms are lightly browned and shallots are soft. Return pancetta to the skillet and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta as per package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, whisk together eggs, whipping cream, grated Parmesan and a very generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
- As soon as the pasta is al dente, drain off, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.
- Immediately add the hot pasta to the egg and cream mixture, and toss briskly so that the heat from the pasta begins to thicken up the sauce (if the sauce becomes too thick or clumpy, add a little bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up).
- Add the cooked pancetta and mushrooms, and toss until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve right away, garnished with fresh parsley and more grated Parmesan.