The Foodcommander is well aware of the old New York City motto, "work hard, party hard." Any big city deserving its number of inhabitants ought to have a pleasantly excessive nightlife but, arguably, a reawakening of the other brain might be in order to coincide with the rising of the body - if not the sun (at least in regards to food).
Here, then, is nothing less than a revolutionary proposition to make a distinction between food eaten immediately before falling into bed and food eaten after a well-deserved slumber or, to describe it more aptly, snoring stupor. Sadly, the usual hangover brunch offerings around town and bestowed upon us by one very well-meaning and humorous Food Republic writer smack of bachelorism, which is to say they lack a certain refinement and imagination - not to mention any insight into the real needs of a party-battered body. In short: one would hope for a better timing to indulge in black coffee, bacon and eggs, and a more astute analysis of the real needs of a frail body soaked in Vodka. Come to think of it, bacon and eggs are something one might rather be advised to feast on while still in party-mode, say, as an alternative to late-night Pasta Aglio è Oglio, a Foodcommander favorite that is decidedly too easy to prepare to warrant a full entry here. These are the kinds of food that not only justify falling into bed after consumption - they literally induce it.
For a truly enlightened hangover meal, treat yourself to a perky, spicy hot broth with Asian pantry condiments.
You may have heard of the Italian Pasta alla Puttanesca, literally the whores' way of preparing pasta. Some of the more ludicrous theories about the name's provenance include the preposterous assumption that surely the holy whores of Rome liked to offer their Johns not just their bodies but also a hefty bowl of pasta tossed with anchovies, garlic and capers. The truth is that the dish's name merely implies that only a whore can have good reason to not rise with the sun: her market being not the farmer's market of the morning hours but the meat market of the night, she must improvise a dish made out of pantry items. Which brings us back to the proposed dish to feast on after the last or the next party.
Let's be realistic: You will not make broth from scratch - certainly not with a hangover. To be perfectly honest, it's safe to assume that you might never, ever make broth from scratch. It's a shame. But live with shame you must as a party animal. And as long as your broth does not involve a can opener, you may be forgiven. The Foodcommander recommends Better than Bouillon, a concentrated chicken stock paste. For a light vegetable broth, find bouillon cubes by a brand named Rapunzel. Of course, there is also the option of using miso paste as a broth base.
Create your broth according to taste and enhance it with a secret weapon: "wet bean curd" (marinated fermented tofu), found in the mysterious aisles in your local Chinatown's grocery stores. This particular, somewhat funky item is perhaps meant only for advanced foodsoldiers: one little cube per serving suffices to give your broth the kind of depth one frequently finds and wonders about when being blessed with real Chinese food. Don't smell it, just toss one cube into the pot without thinking, it will disintegrate. Just do it. In your current state, you are really not one to judge funkiness in a grocery item.
Now add a few spoons of silken tofu and scraps of whatever vegetables lurk in the dark corners of your refrigerator - a few torn leaves of white, everlasting cabbage or, hopefully, a sliced scallion or two, but do not cook them: merely throw them into the simmering broth, one scant minute prior to serving it. This would also be a welcome way to put leftover cooked rice to good use.
Finally, this is where whore-ific items from your pantry and your refrigerator door come into play. As a matter of fact, The Foodcommander will address the intelligent stocking of a kitchen pantry in a specifically devoted column later this month. Here, the possibilities are endless, but for now, let's just mention the following delectable examples:
- Toasted sesame oil
- Dried whole red chillies and/or Asian oil-based condiment with crushed chillies
- Fried shallots
- Sheets of Nori (dried pressed seaweed)
Add any number of the above into your soup bowl (if using Nori, tear it into pieces), add the blanched vegetables and then pour piping hot broth over it. Skimp on sesame oil (a few drops will do) but not on dried hot chillies or chili oil - their raison d'être in this context is to boost not just flavor but also your immune system, not to mention that they are more likely to wake up your senses than the darkest coffee on the planet. Do not substitute hot sauce. Most hot sauces are vinegar-based, and souring the broth is not the idea in this case.
Slurp the broth in the safety of your home while thinking nice thoughts about bachelors and whores and feel the heat spread through your tired limbs. It was a great night out, wasn't it.