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Hunter S. Thompson: Huevos Rancheros

Every day begins with breakfast, and every breakfast begins with a profound dilemma: Sweet or savory? For the reliably indecisive (myself included), reading a brunch menu is like watching two heavyweights sweat it out in the ring. Pancakes vs. omelets. French toast vs. hash browns. Doughnuts vs. bacon. Our brains weren’t equipped to handle decisions of this magnitude before noon.

Leave it to Hunter S. Thompson to figure out the two optimal solutions to this problem. One: Never get up before noon. Two: Order everything on the menu.

“Breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess,” Thompson wrote in The Great Shark Hunt . He goes on to list his preferred meal: “four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned-beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert.”

Thompson’s penchant for excess was legendary—but how much of the legend was of his own making? Few question his extravagance where alcohol was concerned; those who partied with him recall downing round after round of his signature Biffs (a mix of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Irish whisky). But according to Thompson’s friends and family, his wild breakfast adventure was largely exaggerated. Instead, he usually ate like the rest of us: one dish at a time.

“He had some very specific ideas about what breakfast should be, and there were maybe four different ones that he liked,” Thompson’s wife Sandy said. “One was a Spanish omelet with bacon. One was mayonnaise and peanut butter on top of toast with bacon on the top. There was some sort of a spinach thing. There was huevos rancheros.” Thompson himself reported a more moderate approach to breakfast elsewhere in The Great Shark Hunt, saying, “I was on the verge of ordering huevos rancheros with a double side of bacon, but … I settled for grapefruit and coffee.” Other friends also remember his grapefruit addiction, but more often it was paired with “six Heinekens and a bottle of gin” instead of the coffee.

Thompson may have misreported his breakfast menu, but he was accurate about his favorite time to eat it: as late as possible. Juan, his son, remembered, “He’d be eating bacon and eggs and reading the paper, and I’d be finishing my dinner or doing my homework before bed. My friends at school thought that was funny.” They might not have thought so if they had run into Thompson enjoying his meal the way he preferred: “in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.”

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When contemplating which of Thompson’s favorite breakfasts to attempt, I wasn’t about to go for Sandy Thompson’s  “mayonnaise and peanut butter” concoction, and “some sort of a spinach thing” seemed a little … vague. Huevos rancheros seemed the natural choice, but it was sorely lacking in one of Thompson’s favorite ingredients: the half-pound side of bacon.

This adaptation of the classic dish brings that meaty richness two ways, incorporating bacon into the sauce, while topping the eggs with a heap of extras including cotija, avocado, extra salsa and, yes, more bacon. It’s technically one dish, but comes a little closer to achieving Thompson’s purported breakfast of champions. Those seeking a more Thompson-esque experience can enjoy with a Bloody Mary, a bottle of gin or a hit of acid, around 3 in the afternoon.

(Adapted from Gourmet)

4 slices bacon
4 corn tortillas
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for sprinkling
1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
sliced avocado, for garnish
cotija cheese, for garnish

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F. Stack 4 ovenproof plates on oven rack to warm.

2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon (in batches if necessary). Cook 4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook another 4 minutes, or until crispy. Set on a plate lined with a paper towel.

3. Return skillet to heat and add 2 tortillas in a stack. Warm in the bacon fat 30 seconds, then flip stack and cook 30 seconds more. Wrap in foil and keep in warm oven. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

4. Purée tomatoes with their juice, onion, cilantro, chipotle, garlic, salt and half the bacon in a blender until very smooth. Carefully add mixture to hot skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until salsa is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and rinse skillet.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Crack eggs into skillet and cook to desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Spoon salsa onto each plate and top with tortillas, eggs, remaining bacon, extra cilantro, extra salsa, sliced avocado and cotija cheese.

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