Football Food: The Bloody Mary Edition

Tomatoes and bacon, together at last - ndmspaint

An Ode to the Queen of Breakfast Cocktails

Ahh, the Bloody Mary, nature's guilt-free way of ushering in a new day with alcohol after closing out the previous night with reckless abandon, hedonistic excess, punch-drunk lethargy, or whatever other form of sloppy headache-inducing debauchery one needs to forgive and forget. But hair of the dog aside, it's just a darn tasty beverage; that's really why we love it and why we'll be drinking one on Saturday morning after the rooster crows and Kirk Herbstreit is sat across from us on the television, his eyes silently screaming for one himself.

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Fortunately we've got a night game so we have plenty of time to mix one up and let the salty, sweet, spicy concoction do its thing. Who needs breakfast or coffee when you have one of these in your hands? Sip a stiff one and watch as the morning's television pundits transition from an impenetrable fog of contradiction and confusion into full technicolor coherence.

But Paint, how exactly do you make a Bloody Mary? Well friend, the way I see it, there are three tiers of Bloody Mary construction. Tier 1 is the absolute bare minimum effort that will yield serviceable results: Zing Zang plus well vodka in a red plastic cup. This is perfectly acceptable, especially if you are in a pinch and you don't want to make a huge production out of it, like for example if you wake up and your mother-in-law is in the kitchen appalled by the collection of empty bottles on the counter that appeared overnight. You can mix tier 1 Bloody Marys inside the refrigerator while you pretend to look for bacon and eggs. They're also good for tailgating. Tier 2 Bloodies involve a little more effort and are more often reserved for entertaining guests or if you feel like going that extra mile for yourself. Tier 3 Bloody Marys are for wild animals and warrior poets with only the slightest shred of sanity left governing their actions in the kitchen. We'll come back to those Bloodies in a bit. For now I give you my Tier 2 recipe, one that I spent over a year experimenting with to come up with the perfect mix of spice, tang, simplicity, and harmony. It's probably all you will ever need:

Ingredients

1 5.5 oz can of Campbell's tomato juice (or other tomato juice)
10 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
5 dashes of Tabasco
the juice of 1 half lime
a shot of your favorite vodka
1 teaspoon of prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon of celery salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
a splash of beef stock (optional)
a splash of peperoncini juice or olive juice (optional)

Mix everything together and serve in a glass with a salted rim over ice, garnish with a peperoncini. Toss a piece of bacon in there as garnish if you have it of course. That's it. I use this recipe all the time and stand behind it. There's nothing more to see here; you can close the page now and be perfectly at peace with yourself having never witnessed the next level Tier 3 Bloody Mary I'm about to walk through. If you are a filthy wild animal, read on.

First, just a little background on why (besides having an insatiable pursuit of perfection perpetually alight inside you) anyone would get this involved in concocting a Bloody Mary. I was in the O'hare International Airport Wolfgang Puck's a few Sundays ago having a sad and lonely breakfast in the wake of our loss to Oklahoma. I ordered a Bloody Mary. It was fine. When the check came it was revealed that the Bloody Mary was twelve dollars. Twelve dollars for something that tasted like someone had wrung out some leftover pizza into a glass. Incensed, I vowed to myself that I would make an epic Bloody Mary for under 12 dollars. What you see below is a photo account of the result, loosely based on the above Tier 2 recipe but with a few extra steps. The final product is hilariously delicious. I literally laughed when I took the first sip of this Bloody.

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First, the night before, we slice up a jalapeño for the jalapeño ice cubes we are going to make.

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That's right. Jalapeño ice cubes. Toss the sliced pepper into a blender with about 2.5 cups of water, liquefy it, and fill an ice cube tray with it.

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The next day they will look something like this. You will only need 1 per drink. They are like little extended release tablets of heat and add an extra level of excitement to those that like to linger over their drinks.

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Also the night before, make your cucumber water. Paint, why are we making cucumber water? We are making cucumber water because the tomatoes we are going to roast will be too thick to pass as tomato juice once they're pureed. So we need to thin them out with cucumber water. What is cucumber water? It's probably the most refreshing beverage on the planet, and it's going to give our Bloody the perfect fresh vegetable balance that other Bloodies don't have. Basically take a nice bottle of water (maybe you can ask this guy for suggestions) and pour it over a sliced up cucumber and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

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Lest we get too couth, it's time to cook some bacon. This should take place the day of. Preheat your oven to 400, line a baking sheet with foil, and throw some bacon slices on it. The thicker the bacon the better. We are baking the bacon so that it stays nice and straight instead of curling up in a frying pan--straight is good when dropping it in a Bloody Mary like you would a celery stick. Since the oven is on we're going to go ahead and roast our tomatoes. I quartered four nice and fresh medium-sized tomatoes and sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper. The bacon will take about 15 minutes to cook; the tomatoes will take closer to 30 to get some decent caramelization going on.

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To pass the time while the food is roasting, let's line the rim of our glass with a mix of sea salt and Old Bay. To do this I just run the carcass of a juiced lime (which we will have since we need the juice of half of a lime per drink) along the rim and then twist the glass upside down on a plate where I've tossed the salt and Old Bay.

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Into the glass will go: the juice of half of a lime, about 2 ounces of premium vodka, 1 jalapeño ice cube, about 4 or 5 regular ice cubes, a splash of peperoncini juice, a little bit of celery salt, about 10 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce, 5 dashes of Tabasco, a teaspoon of prepared horseradish, a splash of stout beer, and our fresh roasted tomato juice.

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For the tomato juice, once the tomatoes are roasted, toss them in a food processor or blender with about 4 or 5 ounces of the cucumber water (or just enough to make it look like juice and not sauce).

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Combine it all and enjoy. It's amazing. It's like a wave of fresh garden vegetable cucumber and lime coolness followed by a big smack of savory roasty zip and heat. I call it the Eleven Dollar Bloody Mary. And I drink it before we win.

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