New Year's hangover cures, scientific and otherwise

It's a custom among some Philadelphians to spend New Year's Day covered in sequins, walking along Broad Street, drinking beer and dancing.

Others adhere to an alternative tradition, best practiced in private, involving abundant groaning and clutching of the head and the toilet tank.

That is, of course, the New Year's hangover.

How best to treat this annual affliction is a matter of some debate. So we turned to the pros - local chefs, who tend to put in late hours and, perhaps, partake in the occasional, end-of-the-night-shift drink. They offered a smorgasbord of greasy, starchy, hot-sauce-slathered dishes; a general call for more alcohol; and a few stomach-turning wild cards (think hangover sushi).

The value of such remedies is debatable.

"Those are not cures for the hangover. Those are masking symptoms," said Michael Oshinsky, a program director at the National Institutes of Neurological Disease and Stroke who has studied hangovers in rats.

He said metabolizing large amounts of alcohol produces lots of acetate - which, in turn, can lead to high levels of adenosine. That's what binds to proteins in your brain, giving you that headache and tired feeling.

Oshinsky's recommended regimen is a lot of water and an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen before bed (not Tylenol: With alcohol, it's toxic to your liver). Then, when you wake up, reach for caffeine. It's an adenosine blocker, which is why drinking coffee makes us less tired.

"That's the headache cure, with a scientific explanation," he said.

Still, the other stuff can help. As for the hair of the dog, he acknowledges that alcohol can act as an analgesic, suppressing pain. And eating after you've stripped your stomach lining with a night of excess is always a good idea.

"But there's no scientific basis for that. That's just logic," he said.

Still, chefs swear by it. Here's their advice:

Brian Lofink, chef at Kraftwork in Fishtown and Sidecar Bar and Kermit's Bake Shoppe in Grays Ferry: "I have a system. I'll drink a quart of water right before bed and - this is probably the last thing you're supposed to do - but I'll take five Tylenol. Then I'll eat a slice of Ellio's [frozen pizza] and go to sleep. I'll wake up, drink a Motrin and a cup of coffee, and I'm good. That has worked for like 15 years, and my wife thinks it's terrible."

Sean Magee, chef at Heritage in Northern Liberties: His at-home hangover cure is a decidedly un-cheffy Heinz Beans on toast with eggs. "I have like seven cans at home," he said. Look for the turquoise can in the international section of your supermarket, dump it on toast, and you're there, he said. Or go to Heritage, which just added it to the brunch menu. "It's kind of an old, rustic English dish, but here it's made from all local ingredients. It's braised heirloom beans with pork belly, served with our house-made country ham and a poached egg on top of our bread."

Jason Cichonski, chef at the Gaslight in Old City, Ela in Queen Village, and the new 1100 Social at Xfinity Live: "I wake up, take a shot of whiskey, and then walk over to 11th and Washington." He prefers Pho & Cafe Viet Huong, for a large Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk, and a bowl of pho with beef, a fried egg, and lots of hot sauce. "That sets me straight. I burn the evil out."

Mike Sultan, of food trucks Street Food Philly, Taco Mondo, and Say Cheese, and the soon-to-open Rittenhouse bricks-and-mortar eatery Revolution Taco: "Chilaquiles, and my favorite place to get it is Cafe Chismosa in Northern Liberties. He tosses these really crispy chips in a spicy salsa verde, with pork or chicken, a fried egg, pickled red onion, and cotija cheese. It's just greasy and heavy enough to sop up all the booze from the night before. He also serves Rival Bros. coffee, which helps drastically."

Brian Ricci, chef at Brick & Mortar in Callowhill: His at-home go-to is grilled cheese with fried eggs, and a beer or Bloody Mary. "Half the battle on New Year's Day is taking the edge off," he noted. He recently added a grilled cheese with braised beef cheeks and taleggio to the brunch menu at Brick & Mortar, which will be open for brunch only on New Year's Day. "We figure that's all we'll be good for, too," Ricci said.

Chad Kubanoff, chef-owner at Same Same Vietnamese Street Food in Northern Liberties: Living in Vietnam for years, Kubanoff discovered the restorative power of noodle soup. He prefers bun bo hue, which he calls "king soup," and a glass of fresh ginger tea. "It's spicy, it has a lot of vegetables and protein, plus lemongrass and pineapple. That, in conjunction with a mug of hot ginger tea" is essentially herbal medicine, he said. He serves both at Same Same.

Scott Schroeder, chef at South Philly Tap Room, Point Breeze's American Sardine Bar, and the Hungry Pigeon, set to open on Fabric Row in Queen Village in January: "For me, I need something raw and fresh and spicy. So I'd go for sushi. The raw fish would put energy into me and the rice absorbs the stuff sloshing around in your stomach." The key to this approach is to sleep in long enough for his go-to sushi places - like Bluefin in Conshohocken, or Sagami or Fuji in South Jersey - to open for lunch. "And have a beer with it," he advises. "A beer, something to eat, and you're out of the hangover. You might have to go back to bed, but you don't have that same feeling anymore."


Posh Beans
Serves 6

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

8 rashers smoked streaky bacon, snipped into pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed
1 ounce dark muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
31/2 fluid ounces cider vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard powder
18 ounces tomato puree
1 shot espresso
14-ounce can navy beans, rinsed and drained
14-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
6 slices white farmhouse bread
butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper   

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan or casserole dish over high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 8 minutes until just starting to crisp.

2. Tip in the onion and cook gently for five minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, followed by the sugar and molasses, and stir until dissolved.

3. Stir in the vinegar, mustard powder, tomato puree, and espresso. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened.

4. Tip in the drained beans and cook gently 15 to 20 minutes. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick, taste and season.

5. Toast the bread and spread with butter, then spoon the beans on top.

Per serving: 580 calories, 30 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams sugar, 33 grams fat, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 610 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

- Posh Toast (Quadrille, 2015)


Slow Cooker Pho
Makes 4 servings

1 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 piece fresh ginger, 2 inches long, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon neutral oil
2 pounds chuck short ribs
Kosher salt
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
8 cups beef broth
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
10 ounces flat rice noodles, fettucine size
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro stems and leaves
2 jalapenos, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds
Lime wedges
Hoisin sauce, sambal or sriracha 

1. Heat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Arrange onion slices and ginger on a baking-sheet pan, brush with oil, and broil until charred in spots, about 10 minutes.

3. Season the short ribs with salt. Arrange the onions and ginger, short ribs, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and beef broth in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for four hours until the meat is just tender. Turn off the slow cooker and let the broth and meat rest for 30 minutes. Remove the meat from the broth and slide off the bones. Strain the broth (discard the solids). Skim any fat that rises to the surface of the broth. (At this point, the broth and meat can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Rewarm before proceeding.)

4. Return the broth to a simmer and season with fish sauce and salt.

5. Prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions. Drain well.

6. Slice the meat into bite-size pieces. Portion out the noodles and meat among four large soup bowls. Ladle the hot broth into the bowls, warming the noodles and meat. Serve with bean sprouts, herbs, jalapeños, lime wedges, and sauces on the side.

Per serving: 1,060 calories, 56 grams protein, 75 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 59 grams fat, 151 milligrams cholesterol, 2,192 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

- Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan (Clarkson Potter, 2015)


Mexican Beef and Eggs
Serves 4   

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Sea salt
14 ounces lean ground grass-fed beef
4 tablespoons chipotle sauce
28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 large handful cilantro, coarsley chopped, plus extra to serve
Freshly ground black pepper
4 free-range eggs
1 jalapeno chili, thinly sliced 

1. Heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft.

2. Increase heat to high, add the beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until browned, breaking up any lumps as you go.

3. Stir in chipotle sauce, tomato, and cilantro, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to medium, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

4. Using a spoon, make four indents into the beef mixture, and crack an egg into each one. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes until the eggs and beef are cooked. Garnish with sliced chili and extra cilantro, then grind some black pepper over and serve right away.

Per serving: 335 calories, 29 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 18grams fat, 251 milligrams cholesterol, 775 milligrams sodium, 1 grams dietary fiber.

- What Katie Ate on the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davies (Viking Studio, 2015)