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01.21.09

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Phaedra

Photograph by Ari LeVaux
Egging Him On: Coffee and eggs are two critical components of the big greasy breakfast; the other is fat.

The Big Greasy

Welcome to the breakfast of champions.

By Ari LeVaux


The easiest way to get me drunk is with meat and wine. A juicy slice of grilled homegrown beefsteak, with nodes of glistening fat attached, would make me very thirsty. Which is very lucky, because it turns out that wine, when consumed with meat and fat, can be medicine as well, according to recent research.

Israeli researchers found several components of wine that suppress the oxidation of meat and fat in your belly. This prevents the formation of some carcinogenic and mutagenic molecules, like malondialdehyde.

Now, it isn't always practical to drink wine with the meal, especially first thing in the morning. But even at breakfast I want to celebrate my meal and reap the medicinal properties. So I brew a pot of morning vino, also known as coffee, and fry up a big greasy breakfast.

As with wine, many foods simply taste better when washed down with coffee. And morning vino contains high levels of some of the same molecules found in wine--various polyphenols and antioxidants--that the recent research concluded were important. This matter, I believe, merits further investigation.

While the wine and meat combo is a simple affair, a big greasy breakfast is a confluence of many fine food particles. Like its alcohol-containing cousin, morning vino is part of the meal, adding its acidic and bitter terroir to each bite, be it huevos rancheros, home fries or steak--all the while giving you a pretty good buzz of a different sort.

The big greasy breakfast is rooted in the menus of 10,000 breakfast joints, coffee shops, greasy spoons and all-night diners, and inspired by their countless ways of serving the all-American big greasy trinity of bacon, eggs and potatoes.

Pioneers and homesteaders survived winter on this combination. A root cellar stocked full of potatoes and onions, with a few salted pork bellies and some chickens that felt like laying, could provide a big greasy breakfast any morning of the year.

Bacon brings two important qualities to the table at once: grease and meat. But these can be substituted. Wherever the grease is from, be it plant oil, pig fat or dairy creams, it should be the good stuff, which is definitely worth paying more for.

Meat, while optional, does go very well with coffee if you're so inclined. Any kind of sausage, made with good meat and fat, will do fine in the pan, as would any kind of meaty leftovers, or chunks of raw steak.

When you're ready to make a big greasy breakfast, heat up a pan and a kettle of water. Fry some pieces of meat in your pan of hot oil, and season with salt and pepper. While the meat browns, chop onions and/or garlic. When the meat is browned, add onions/garlic and prepare to smell the magic. When the onions start to weep, add your vegetal matter--perhaps freshly steamed chunks of potato, carrot, turnip, other roots or pre-cooked squash. Greens or broccoli, fresh in summertime or frozen in winter, don't need pre-cooking. Just throw them in the pan.

If the contents start to stick, deglaze with a little wine and stir. I like to brown and deglaze multiple times with potatoes, to put a nice crisp on.

There is no substitute for eggs--I either have them or wish I did. This winter my hens aren't laying much. But when I have eggs, watch out. Maybe I'll pour some beaten eggs into the pan with the meat and veggies, let them cook a moment and do a light scramble. Or I'll fry them sunny side up, and when the bottoms are done but the tops are still gooey, pour in a shot of water or wine and put the lid on briefly. The steam will lightly cook the tops.

Or I'll just scramble the eggs in oil, with salt and pepper, and serve them on the side in their bright yellow splendor.

Condiments are essential. Tabasco and other hot sauces work. Mayonnaise, a rare fatty condiment, is also important. These goodies, like coffee, will help unlock and enhance the flavors of your celebratory morning meal.

A big greasy breakfast doesn't have to be very big--rich foods give your body a satiated feeling, even if you haven't eaten a ton. Nor need it be overly greasy, either. As long as it's greasy enough to keep the coffee busy, it's greasy enough for me.


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