I Love the Smell of Vodka in the Morning

by Jason Roth on December 31, 2009

Yeah, I know: how many freakin’ times can someone reuse a reference to Apocalypse Now and pretend they’re exhibiting one iota of creativity. But I deserve a little slack for at least seeing the actual movie. (And at least “vodka” has the same number of syllables as “napalm”.)

So, this simple-looking New Year’s Eve breakfast, with the unusual dollop of cream, is actually the product of two separate Christmas presents, one for me, one for my wife. The snow outside our window this morning kind of begged for a fancier breakfast and, well, given the unassuming presentation, I guess you’ll have to take my word for it that it was.

A decent breakfast, minus the caviar

A decent vodka-laced breakfast, minus the caviar

The scrambled eggs and yes, the vodka, came from Jean-Georges Vongerichten. My wife gave me this really cool cookbook by him and Mark Bittman. The recipe I made is actually a slightly modified version of the one on the book cover. (Let me go ahead and be the only person on Earth who refers to him by his last name.) Vongerichten presents a unique way to cook the eggs. Crack the eggs directly into a cold pan with a little butter, season with salt and cayenne, turn the pan to medium-high, and start whisking. The idea is to continue whisking, but not whisk too hard that you generate foam. And if they start sticking to the pan, you can remove the pan from the heat, keep whisking, and then bring it back. Since this was the first time I tried it, I’m not sure if I got it 100% right, but they came out quite well. Even though I plated them pretty quickly upon finishing, I think I could have removed them just a few seconds earlier for a slightly creamier texture. Heating the plates would have helped, too. (Have I mentioned the trick, I forget where I learned this, of microwaving plates for a minute to heat them? Works perfectly.)

The cream mixture was supposed to be made with heavy cream, but we had some sour cream in the fridge, so I used that. I whisked in a little lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and just shy of the two teaspoons of vodka Mr. Vongerichten calls for. (I learned for myself that whisking sour cream does absolutely nothing to its texture, by the way. Hey, I didn’t know.) It’s gotta be Bittman who wrote that this mixture should “sing”, which is a helpful description as you combine unspecified amounts of lemon, salt, and cayenne.

This dish, even minus the caviar (for the fancy appetizer version) was quite flavorful. I usually like cheese in my eggs, but the tart and slightly spicy sour cream mixture was a perfect complement to the eggs. Plus, adding the seasoning to the eggs themselves was an important finishing touch.

The accompanying toast was made with a $200 slice of frozen bread. I gave my wife a Zojirushi bread machine for Christmas, and man, was that the smartest gift I ever gave. (Even better than when I gave my dad a Rubik’s Cube.) She made bread just once so far, and already I can highly recommend this. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread was absolutely awesome. And I think it took her a full five minutes to dump in the ingredients. This goddamn machine not only kneads the dough for you, you can actually set a timer for when you want it done! The loaf plops right out of the machine (that didn’t sound exactly right), and voila, fresh bread. I read on some message board, Chowhound I believe, that homemade bread will dry out if you keep it longer than a couple days, and freezing slices of bread would work fine. Indeed, the defrosted and toasted slices were totally fine. (We kept the fresh bread in a Ziplock freezer bag for about three days, incidentally, and it was fine untoasted. Longer than that probably would have been too long.)

Unpictured were the cups of coffee. While grabbing the Folger’s from the cabinet, I was inspired by some Godiva cocoa powder, a gift to us from last Christmas, I believe. I threw in some of the cocoa powder on top of the coffee (a sixth or so of the amount of coffee), and that turned out to be just about the right amount. A very subtle flavor, more detectable to the nose, was present, and it smoothed out the coffee and added a nice element without overpowering it like those crappy flavored deli coffees.

Not a bad way to start New Year’s Eve. (Though I’m not sure the name of the morning before January first should include the word “Eve”.) Tonight, we plan to make another semi-fancy Vongerichten dish. It’s chicken in foil, which doesn’t sound that fancy, except that it includes a few ounces of foie gras, along with mushrooms and shredded cabbage. I’m looking forward to cooking the foil-enclosed chicken on the stove-top and seeing it puff up. I will be sure to have a family member update this blog tomorrow if I should happen to require hospitalization. (If exploding chicken isn’t the culprit, it’ll be our local bar.)


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