Before plying myself with gross quantities of beer or liquor (or both), I like to ensure I’ve lined my belly with sufficient quantities of foodstuff. I’m not sure if it’s true—I got a D- in high school biology, and therefore lack even the most fundamental understanding of metabolic function—but if life experience (read: years of moderate to heavy drinking) has taught me anything, it’s that eating before (binge) drinking generally leads to more favorable outcomes than not eating before (binge) drinking. Meaning, fewer and less violent hangovers, less frequent and less public vomiting, fewer and less embarrassing viral mishaps, etc.
If you fail to line one’s stomach pre-bender, though, there’s no other choice but to do so afterward. So let’s talk Drunk Meals.
This particular food category takes the spotlight in the wee hours: It’s 3 a.m., say, and you’re ambling home (on foot, or at least not in the driver’s seat, naturally) and contemplating your options. Your favorite pizza joint is closed. Your favorite taco spot is closed. Your local convenience store is closed. (Which is for the best: I’m not sure how many more bags of Fritos Honey BBQ Twists my body can handle before it decides it has diabetes, but it can’t be a lot.) You are on your own, and you’re also, as aforementioned, drunk.
Fortunately, I’ve learned to be rather utilitarian in the kitchen, and even in my sober hours tend to subsist on a precious few relatively inexpensive ingredients: eggs, onions, garlic, peppers, chicken thighs, instant ramen, pepperoni pizza, pepper jack, mayonnaise, olive oil, pineapple, butter, soy sauce, and Sriracha. So, what the fuck can one make with that class of ingredients that would be even remotely appealing to the drunkest, most gluttonous boozer? A fucking lot, that’s what. Here are six options.
Ingredients: 1 package instant ramen, 1 yellow onion, a few cloves of garlic, 1 red bell pepper, soy sauce, Sriracha, and a few slices of pepper jack.
Cheesy Ramen Thing is the ultimate in “I’m drunk and don’t give a fuck what I’m about to shovel down my gullet” fare. It’s also low-maintenance, which is important when considering how easy it could be for a shitfaced lunatic to burn his apartment down while playing with kitchen fire. Chop an onion, chop some garlic, chop a red pepper, and sauté them together in a skillet on medium-high heat till the onions turn soft. Ordinarily you’d want to wait to add the garlic because you don’t want it to burn, but you’re drunk as fuck and you need to get rid of The Spins, fast. You don’t have time for perfectly bloomed garlic, and you don’t mind the slightly acrid taste of burnt garlic anyway.
While your veg sautées, boil some instant ramen in a hack broth of water, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Measurements don’t really matter here—use your head. A two-count on the soy sauce and a healthy squirt from the Sriracha bottle should suffice. Cook al dente, strain, and transfer to the skillet where your not-so-perfectly-cooked but cooked-well-enough veg are hanging out. Toss together with a few stylish flicks of the wrist (or with a wooden spoon if your kitchen skills are below par, which, let’s face it, they probably are), and top with ample bits of pepper jack. Pop the unholy amalgamation under the broiler for a few minutes (or, if you don’t have a broiler, flip it all in the pan like you would an omelet) and cook till the cheese is slightly burned. Top with more Sriracha. It’s phenomenal.
Ingredients: 2 slices leftover pepperoni pizza, a bunch of butter, 2 eggs, a few slices of pepper jack, and the hot sauce of your choice (but don’t be a dummy, use Sriracha).
If you’re as lucky as I was the other night, you’ll have a few slices of leftover pepperoni pizza hanging out in your fridge. If you’re particularly lucky, said slices would have been wrapped in aluminum foil, because you’re an adult and you care about proper methods of food storage. Such was not the case for me, but what are a few bits of your roommate’s leftover Thai food on top of your pizza if not extra seasoning?
This one is even easier. Take two slices of the leftover pie (any kind of pie will do, but pepperoni is definitely preferable here), and reheat them in a cast-iron skillet on both sides (we’re looking for burnt cheese again). You’ll have to heat the slices one at a time, unless you have the largest cast-iron skillet on earth. Once the slices are thusly cooked, add a bit of butter to the skillet and fry two eggs, over medium. Place the eggs between the two slices, along with some pepper jack, and heat in the skillet till the cheese has melted and is spilling out the sides. Top with hot sauce. This is the best breakfast sandwich you’ll ever eat.
Ingredients: chicken skins from chicken thighs, olive oil, mayonnaise, soy sauce, Sriracha, and salt and pepper.
I keep an eight-pack of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in my fridge at all times, and you should, too. Not only are chicken thighs the best-tasting part of the bird, they’re also very cheap—crucial for the frugal (or cheap) bachelor. I’m a fan of shallow-frying them in about a quarter-inch of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet, but when I’m drunk and unwilling to wait the 15 or 20 minutes required for chicken thighs that are thoroughly cooked, I opt for fried chicken skins instead.
It’s simple: Remove the skins from the thighs—this requires no knife work, just a solid tug—salt and pepper each side, and fry them in a cast-iron skillet, in enough olive oil so that they’re fully submerged, until they’re crispy and golden brown. (Remember to wash your hands after handling all of that raw chicken.)
No fried chicken skin is complete without an indulgent dipping sauce. Scoop a healthy dollop of mayonnaise into a bowl, and then squirt as much Sriracha and soy sauce as you’d like on top. Mix it all together, dip the skins long and deep, and enjoy.
Ingredients: 1 package instant ramen, Sriracha, soy sauce, 2 eggs, half an onion, and a few cloves of garlic.
It takes hours—days, even—to develop a complex ramen broth. Great ramen also requires great noodles. You, however, have neither the hours nor the days nor the great noodles requisite for great ramen, so you’re left to sate your craving with a bowl of this half-decent facsimile. This might be the easiest recipe on here. Bring to a boil that same hack broth you’re now an expert at making thanks to Cheesy Ramen Thing, only this time add to it half a chopped onion and a few cloves of minced garlic. Let it boil for a few minutes, and then add your shitty instant ramen noodles. After another minute, crack two eggs directly into the pot and let them poach. Transfer to a bowl, ensuring the poached eggs remain at the top of the soup. Break the eggs, and stir the yolk into the rest of the soup—their gooey nature will thicken the broth and give it both the coloring and texture of a more well-cared-for miso variation. Eat immediately, making certain to burn the fuck out of your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
Ingredients: 4 eggs, 1 onion, olive oil, soy sauce.
This is a relatively faithful version of an authentic Japanese egg preparation used in Donburi dishes (I say relatively because most recipes call for mirin and sake as well, but some do not, so I’m siding with the some that do not). Chop your onion and sauté it in olive oil (or, if you were smart and didn’t clean your cast-iron skillet after frying those chicken skins, in schmaltz).
In the meantime, beat your eggs together with a few dashes of soy sauce. Once the onions have cooked, pour your eggs into the skillet and scramble to your preferred level of doneness. Less cooked is best here—no one likes a dry scrambled egg. The soy sauce and the onions will lend a sweetness to the eggs, which is a bit jarring initially, because eggs generally sit comfortably in the savory ranks. But fuck if it’s not the best way to eat eggs.
Ingredients: Butter (as much as you think your heart can handle) and a pineapple.
Perhaps slicing up a pineapple requires more technique than your Narragansett-soaked body can muster at 3 a.m.—and God knows it requires a sharper knife than the one you’ve got at your disposal—but if the threat of bodily harm isn’t a turnoff, this will be the best drunken dessert you’ve ever eaten. Slice the pineapple the way you’re accustomed to slicing a pineapple, until you’ve got about 25 or 30 pieces that are roughly the same size. (Don’t discard the core—you can freeze it and then cut it into four little pineapple ice cubes and put them in your next poolside cocktail.) Slap a few spoonfuls of butter into a nonstick skillet and cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes, or until the butter begins to brown. Toss the pineapple in and cook until each flat surface begins to display noticeable browning. At this stage, you can eat it as-is, or you can sprinkle some cinnamon and cayenne over the top.
Ingredients: a few onions (yellow or white), some butter, and some olive oil.
Caramelized onions are the candy of the vegetable world. And while they often function as delicious, sweet little compliments to a number of bigger-picture dishes, eating them by the bowlful, on their own, naked as the day they were chopped, is a pleasure everyone must indulge in at least once before they die whatever horrible death they’re bound to die. Unintentionally, this drunk dish is a work of art. It’s also simple. Chop two onions, move them to a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, and cook them in butter and olive oil on medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Let the onion’s natural sugars do their thing. This recipe requires a bit more care than the previous five, and it’s also a bigger time commitment—to do it right, you’ll want to let the onions cook anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. You have the spins, though, remember? You can’t go to bed anyways—time is nothing to you. You might as well do something productive while you battle to retain whatever dignity you didn’t leave at that shitty party you just left.
Of course, if you’re too drunk to safely drive or walk or fucking crawl, you’re also probably too drunk to safely cook, in which case ignore everything I just said and hit the sack hungry. If you’re anything like me—that is, a seemingly skinny dude with a body-mass index that indicates otherwise—your waistline will appreciate the night off.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby; food pics by the author.
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