A Family Classic

So a couple of weeks ago my boyfriend, Jeremy, got the MOST AMAZING NEWS EVER. After many hard months of searching he was offered a job for an industrial design position!!

Jeremy and I both graduated from Virginia Tech with Industrial Design degrees – a very small, highly competitive field. The year we graduated? 2009. Right after the economy hit rock bottom. Talk about a learning experience… Our school prepared us for the job hunt just as any other student would have been – tips on resume building, how to build a design portfolio, what to wear to an interview, etc. What we weren’t prepared for was the reality of how bad the job market really was going to be for Industrial Designers. I don’t even think our professors saw it coming. Saying it was a struggle to find a job is a severe understatement. With the exception of one or two, it took the majority of us many months, sometimes even years, to find full-time work that we could call a “career”. So fast forward through all the phone calls, all the studio drop-ins, all the “faux” interviews with people who weren’t hiring and it brings us here. Not only was Jeremy offered an Industrial Design job, but he was offered a job with the exact same company who hired me just over a year ago. WHAT are the chances?! It’s still completely surreal. Every day I look over at his desk from mine and I think to myself “We don’t deserve to be this lucky!”. But in those moments, this amazing guy reminds me just how long we’ve done “long distance”, just how long we’ve struggled to be a couple on a budget that doesn’t allow for much fun AT ALL, and just how far he came when he moved down here to be with me – without a job, an income, or even a lead. So you know what? Maybe he’s right. Maybe we do deserve this 🙂

So that long and quasi-related ramble brings me to my next point. Jeremy’s parents sent him a gift basket about a week after he started work filled lots of goodies – peanuts, cheese straws, wine…  Oh how nice! I thought when I looked it over briefly after he opened it. BUT THEN….out of the corner of my eye….I saw this:

HOW HAD I OVERLOOKED THAT BEAUTY?! I’ve mentioned we’re from Virginia right? Only a a few times? 😉 Well if there’s one thing we do well in Virginia, it’s HAM. South Carolina can have its shrimp & grits, its pimento cheese, it can even fight Georgia for its claim to peaches, but up in VA we stick to one thing, y’all, and we do it WELL. And you have to get the one in the sack. I can’t explain it, I don’t know the science behind it, all I know is this past Christmas I was craving one of these babies so bad that I was two steps away from sending myself a gift basket just to get my hands on one. (True story) So what do you do with a Virginia country ham in all its salty glory, you ask? Well, lots of things actually…  What did we do? An old Green family standby – Spaghetti Carbonara.

This is a true Green family favorite, and I mean to the point where my brothers and I can get together, ask each other what we should do for dinner, look at each other without saying a word and just know what the answer is. We’ve made this so many ways I can’t even keep track anymore. With sherry, without sherry, with heavy cream, with bacon grease, without bacon grease, with ham, with pancetta, with proscuitto, with two eggs, with three eggs, with parsley….I mean really. One might call us “connoisseurs” of the dish because we are well acquainted. That being said, this version might be my favorite (unless my Mom is cooking it…she always wins!).

Spaghetti Carbonara with Virginia Country Ham

*This recipe is for 5 people, because that’s the easiest way my family knows how to do it! 

1 lb spaghetti

*Retain about 1/4 cup of your salted pasta water after you cook it

About 1  cup chopped country ham (or more if you like)

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

3-4 egg yolks (you don’t have to remove all of the whites, but you definitely want more yolk than white as this creates the “sauce”)

a handful of chopped fresh parsley (I left this out this time but it adds great flavor)

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

1) Throw your chopped country ham into a pan on medium heat with a little olive oil. This will bring out its flavor and crisp it up a bit.

2) Cook your pasta in salted water until al dente. Be sure not to drain it as you will need some of the pasta water to add back into the pasta.

3) While pasta is still very hot, transfer to a bowl and slowly pour in the egg yolks as you toss it. This will create a creamy sauce for the pasta. As you continue tossing the pasta, add the cooked ham, parmesan and about 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water. Finally crack a lot of fresh black pepper on top and toss in the parsley. You really can’t overdo the pepper. The rest of these flavors are subtle so that spice gives it most of its depth.

4) SERVE IMMEDIATELY. Serve with fresh Parmesan and extra black pepper for topping.

NOTE: This is very easy and quick to make so if you’re having anything else with your meal, be sure that is ready by the time you toss your pasta. If you have a serving bowl that will retain a little heat, I would recommend it. This pasta gets cold fast and is really so much better when it’s really hot. Also, if you find it a little “gummy”, add in some more pasta water. This also works when you’re reheating it -just add a little water to it and throw it in a skillet for a few minutes! It almost tastes better reheated! ENJOY 🙂

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