I entered a recipe contest about a month ago and was tasked to develop three recipes using Clifty Farm Country Ham products…an appetizer, breakfast and an entree. Breakfast was a no-brainer, as most of us associate country ham with breakfast. I created these amazing Eggs Benedict with Candied Country Ham…not your traditional for sure, but out of this world. The appetizer was a bit more challenging, but I just knew I could somehow combine my love of clams with this superb country ham…and I did. Check out my Clams with Crispy Country Ham and Maple Apple Foam.
The most difficult part of this challenge for me was to create an entree using country ham. I did not want to go the easy route and prepare Shrimp and Grits or a Potato Casserole. So, I thought of my Pasta Carbonara. Country Ham, Eggs, Pasta…how could I go wrong? I am happy to report…it turned out fabulous…even better than I expected. I cut the country ham into thin strips…made them nice and crispy…combined it with a silky, cream egg mixture and topped all of it off with a few over easy quail eggs! Aside from the incredible flavor, you can prepare this dish in about 25 minutes from prep to plate!
Start boiling a pot of water for the pasta. In a deep saucepan, add the country ham strips and a tablespoon of the olive oil. Render until crispy. Drop your pasta once the water boils…do NOT forget to salt your pasta water! Always remember to stir your pasta immediately after you drop in the pot so that it does not stick together.
While the country ham is rendering, in a bowl whisk together the eggs, heavy whipping cream and Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper. No need to add additional salt. The country ham and pasta water will add just the perfect amount of saltiness to the finished dish.
Remove country ham from pan. Drain on paper towels and reserve. In the same pan, add in the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil, the shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Soften for about two minutes without browning the garlic/shallots.
Add in the wine…scrape up any bits at the bottom of the pan…allow the wine to reduce to about half.
Turn the heat way down to low. Add the pasta. If you time it right, you can take the pasta directly from the pot and place into the pan. If not, drain and remember to reserve at least one-half of a cup of the pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add in the reserved pasta water and toss again.
Turn off the heat. Slowly, add in the egg mixture and toss quickly with tongs. This is the part that scared me, but I thought if I could mix the eggs with the cream and cheese, I just may not scramble the eggs…I did NOT! YEAH! Add in the the fresh parsley and about three-fourths of the crispy country ham pieces.
Toss the pasta to incorporate. Fry up a few quail eggs if you so desire. I used this cute mini cast iron pan from Lodge. Click here to grab a set. Add a pat of butter to the cast iron pan. Heat up. Crack two quail eggs and place on top of finished pasta when the white has set up. This only takes like a minute or so!
Garnish with the remaining crispy country ham and a touch of fresh parsley. You just created one of the best pasta dishes ever! So silky and rich. The country ham added the right amount of flavor a saltiness! ENJOY!!!