Chile Remedies for a Hangover

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The chile can help cure hangovers

Every New Years Eve we promise ourselves not to overindulge in “spirits,” but alas, it does happen. So if you’re reading this article in bed with an ice pack on your head and Pepto Bismol on the nightstand, consider yourself a self-induced victim of a hangover, or as they say in Spanish, of el crudo.

No known cure for your misdeed exists, but the good news, say astute home chefs, is many recipes can dramatically ease the aftereffects of a hangover. One Internet Chilehead, J.D. “Doug” Scudds from Ecuador, swears by Campbell’s Chunky Style New England Clam Chowder “. . . just add chile.” Scudds also observes a fundamental truism: “At least with chile, the pain comes before the buzz.”

Dave DeWitt, co-author of The Healing Powers of Chiles, [Three Rivers Press 1998] says a classic Mexican cure for a hangover is a broth laden with chile peppers. A similar recipe, with which I haven’t treated a hangover, but sip on occasion for a pick me up, is habanero flakes or other dehydrated hot chile steeped in hot water. The more flakes, the more the jolt, which clears my cobwebs within minutes.

The most famous recipe in Mexico for the effects of alcohol overindulgence is, of course, menudo [meh-NOO-doh; meh-NOO-thoh]: a zealous, spicy, and faintly sweet soup made with tripe, calf’s or pig’s feet, green chile, hominy and seasonings. Menudo, DeWitt says is “called the ‘breakfast of champions’ because of its reputed ability to banish the demons of drink.”

Tripe, found in most local grocery stores, is the muscular lining of beef stomach. The most tender and prized variety, says Himilce Novas and Rosemary Silva, authors of Latin American Cooking Across the U.S.A. [Knopf 1997], is “honey-comb tripe that comes from the second stomach.” It can be purchased already cleaned, soaked, and partially cooked. Tripe itself is rather tasteless, but easily assimilates other flavors, which is why calf’s foot or pig’s foot is often added. The marrow and meat confer a delicious flavor hoist, while its gelatinous skin lends body to the broth. If calf’s foot or pig’s foot is either unavailable at your grocers, or it just doesn’t sound appealing to you, spareribs may be substituted.

The peppery pot is often served with lime wedges, chopped chiles, diced onion, and hot tortillas. I should note that menudo is served not only following the previous night’s whoop-de-do, but is also a revered dish, often reserved for breakfast on Sundays. Go ahead, give it a try.

MENUDO

For the soup:
2 pounds fresh beef tripe, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch squares
1 calf’s or pig’s foot, cut into pieces, or substitute ½ pound spareribs
3 quarts water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon mild ground dried red chile, or to taste
1 teaspoon dried powdered oregano (not crumbled)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups canned or cooked white or yellow hominy (also called posole), drained

For the garnish:
3 medium scallions, root ends removed and finely minced
2 limes, cut into wedges
½ cup finely minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons dried powdered oregano (not crumbled)
8 corn tortillas (optional)
Mexican hot sauce, your favorite brand

Put the tripe, the calf’s or pig’s foot, and the water in a large stockpot. Add the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat for simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface, for 2 hours.

Transfer the calf’s or pig’s food to a cutting board and remove all the meat from the bones and cartilage. Discard the bones and cartilage. Cut the meat into small pieces and return to the stockpot. Add the spices and continue to simmer for 1½ hours. Add the hominy and bring the menudo to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for another hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve garnishes in separate bowls and enjoy.