I like to cook and I like to make cocktails—because I like to eat and I like to drink. Sometimes I even get to combine these two passions like when I make spaghetti carbonara and mix up a couple of Gin-Campari or Pisco sours to go along with it. My husband calls this my circus trick—getting the drink and the dinner ready almost simultaneously. I just call it a way not to waste perfectly good egg whites. The recipe uses two whole eggs and two egg yolks leaving the whites of two eggs as leftovers. I could pour them down the sink, but what a waste.
My view is if life gives you egg whites…make an egg white cocktail!
Now this is where the trick comes into play because in order to properly make the carbonara, you have to gently cook the eggs by tossing it with the hot pancetta and pasta—and because you don’t want to leave the egg whites just sitting around, you also want to shake up the cocktail pretty much at the same time. It sounds mad but it’s actually not that difficult if you prep all your ingredients first and the results are so satisfying. Check it out.
For the pasta, I use a recipe adapted from Ian Hunter’s recipe from the New York Times. The first stage of the “trick” is to assemble your ingredients.
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- About 1/3 packed cup grated pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
- About 1/3 packed cup grated Parmesan
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 package pancetta (Citterio is the brand I usually find in the supermarket)
- Spaghetti (the amount depends on how many servings you’re making. This is a dish meant to be eaten, fully, immediately. No leftovers)
And the Gin-Campari Cocktail
- 3 oz gin
- 1.5 oz Campari
- 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz simple syrup (dissolve sugar in equal parts water, say, 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water)
- 2 egg whites
- a few dashes orange bitters
- Place a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat, and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, fill a large bowl with hot water and set aside. I like to use a big stainless steel bowl for reasons that will become clear later, but just about any type good size bowl will do
- Break two of the eggs into a mixing bowl. Separate the other two eggs, placing just the yolks in the mixing bowl while reserving the whites in a cocktail shaker. Stash the shaker in the refrigerator.
- Whisk together the eggs and yolk that are in the mixing bowl with the pecorino and Parmesan cheeses. Season with a pinch of salt and generous amount of black pepper.
- Next, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the pancetta, and sauté until the fat just renders, on the edge of crispness but not hard. Remove from heat and set aside.
- By now the pasta cooking water should be boiling. Add pasta to the pot and boil until a bit firmer than al dente. This gives you just enough time to put those egg whites to good use in a cocktail.
- Add all the cocktail ingredients to the cocktail shaker containing the egg yolk. Seal and shake vigorously for a few seconds. (This is called a dry shake, meaning it’s done without adding ice to the cocktail shaker.) You will feel pressure start to build up in the shaker—the top will feel like it’s about to pop off— as the egg white starts to froth up. Once you start to feel that pressure, stop shaking and carefully unseal the shaker. Add ice, reseal the shaker and shake again. Strain into two cocktail glasses. Admire your beautiful creations and sip.
- By now your pasta should be perfectly al dente—if you got your timing right. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the rest. Add the cooked pasta to the pancetta skillet over low heat. Stir for a minute or so.
- Empty serving bowl of hot water. Dry it and add hot pasta mixture. Stir in cheese and egg mixture. The egg will start to slowly cook in the heat of the hot bowl and the hot pasta. Add some reserved pasta water, a little at a time, if needed for creaminess. Serve immediately, dressing it with a bit of additional grated pecorino and pepper.
- Enjoy your pasta and the rest of your cocktail.
If a Gin-Campari Sour doesn’t appeal, try a classic Pisco Sour. Makes two.
• 4 oz Pisco
• 2 oz Fresh lime juice
• 1 oz Simple Syrup
• 2 egg whites
• Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients except bitters into cocktail shaker and shake vigourously as above. When you feel the pressure build up in the shaker, carefully open and add ice. Re-seal and shake again. Strain into chilled coupes, Nick & Nora, or rocks glasses. Garnish with three drops of Angostura bitters and use a straw to swirl the bitters into a simple design.