Friday, March 14, 2008

Breakfast for dinner?

I wasn't intending on making breakfast for dinner. In fact, I had a great pasta carbonara recipe all ready to go. It was going to be delicious, all creamy and salty and good. I had even decided to try my hand at making my own pasta! See, ever since I was little I've loved homemade pasta. Growing up, my friend Beth's mom would make it every Christmas for one of their insanely large and crazy Christmas dinners. And sometimes my mom would stop by the Italian Grocer on the way home from Pittsburgh and bring fresh pasta.

Only problem with fresh pasta is that it takes both time, and some form of pasta machine. I don't have either. So when I saw a recipe for "instant pasta", no machine needed, I got very excited. I was going to have pasta carbonara with my very own homemade pasta!

And then I ran into a little snag. The recipe required semolina flour. Semolina flour - written as though you could pick it up anywhere. I checked "anywhere" they didn't carry it. None of my local food stores carried it. During my lunch break I headed over to Little Italy to try the Italian grocery store. The guy there gave me the stink eye when I asked for semolina flour. He said they used it to make their pasta, but there was no way in hell he was going to sell me any. (okay, he might not have said it exactly like that, but that was definitely the impression I got.) He informed me that semolina flour costs $52 a lb and no one would sell me any. (side note - after I had already made this dish I was in Henry's and picked up a bag of semolina flour for $2.29)

I was discouraged, but determined. I googled the heck out of "substitutes for semolina flour" and found one source that said it was used to make cream of wheat. Cream of wheat? That my store has. So I substituted cream of wheat for the semolina flour.

At first, things looked promising. The cream of wheat behaved just as the recipe said it should! I got very excited. But then I remembered I still had to boil this "pasta." This is also around the time I remembered what happens when you put cream of wheat in hot water.

Figuring it was too late to turn back now, I dumped the "pasta" into the water. When it looked "al dente" I mixed it with the carbonara sauce. It was creamy, it was salty, it was the weirdest breakfast for dinner.
Cream of Wheat Carbonara
1 Tbsp EVOO
6 oz pancetta, sliced and cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
cold water
2 Tbsp salt
2 1/2 cups cream of wheat

1) In a large skillet, heat the EVOO. Ad the pancetta and cook over moderate heat about 7 minutes. Drain the pancetta in a strainer over a bowl, reserve the fat.
2) Ad the cream to the skillet and bring to a simmer over moderate heat.
3) Add pepper
4) Add the Parmesan, stirring until the cheese has blended into the cream. Remove from heat and let cool.
5) Whisk in the egg yolk, pancetta, and reserved fat and refrigerate.
6) Bring 4 qts of water to a boil and add salt. Spread cream of wheat on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Put 1 cup of cold water in bowl.
7) Dip your fingertips in the water and scatter drops all over the surface of the cream of wheat. Keep scattering until the entire surface is covered with drops. With a rubber spatula, turn the moistened cream of wheat over on itself, tossing to form small lumps. Shake the pan to spread lose cream of wheat in an even layer. Repeat with more water until just about all the cream of wheat has been formed into irregular lumps about the size of small peas. Shake in colander to remove loose cream of wheat.
8) Pour cream of wheat into boiling water and cook, about 4 minutes.
9) Meanwhile, gently reheat the sauce over moderately low heat, stirring constantly. Drain the cream of wheat and add it to the sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls and serve.

Serve 4.
Each serving has:
Calories 388.7
Total Fat 29.6 g
Cholesterol 91.4 mg
Sodium 259.9 mg
Potassium 88.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 21.9 g
Protein 9.1 g


  1. i'm impressed with your thinking on your feet. ;) and ain't nothin' wrong with breakfast for dinner!

    i'm assuming you'll try this recipe again with the "real" stuff?

  2. That is so something I would do!

  3. That's too funny! I wonder if there are different types/grades of semolina flour. Why would one guy say $52/lb, when you can get a bag for so much less?

  4. I love breakfast for dinner.... great dish!

  5. Absolutely hysterical - don't you just love big ego chefs who try to mystify what they do when really, it's pretty basic? Make sure you document this experience somewhere so it can be one of your "I remember when" stories. So good.

  6. Hilarious! You should open up a shop and start NOT selling pastry flour for $40 a bag.