On May 4, 1961 Alan Shepard dined on a breakfast consisting of:
…orange juice, a filet mignon wrapped in bacon, and some scrambled eggs…¹
He was joined at this historic meal by John Glenn, his backup, his physician William K. Douglas and other members of the operations crew. After the successful launch and completion of the first manned space mission by the United States, many astronauts would follow in Alan Shepard’s gastronomical footsteps and enjoy the now traditional pre-flight breakfast of steak and eggs. Though the pre-flight meals are chosen by the astronauts, for the three days preceding the launch of Freedom 7 Alan Shepard’s ate specially designed meals that were healthy and low residue.
The traditional meal continued and was even chosen as the pre-flight breakfast for the crew of Apollo 11. In the photo below, it appears that toast was added to their meal.
Over the course of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and well into the Shuttle program the tradition was honored by many astronauts. In an article he wrote for Gizmodo², astronaut Leroy Chiao describes a time when astronauts had veered away from the tradition, ordering items such as dry toast and yogurt. During this pre-flight meal Dr. Chiao ordered steak and eggs over easy, reaffirming the tradition. He notes in the article that after making his case for his breakfast of choice three of his crew mates changed their order to match his. In fact, Dr. Chaio ordered steak and eggs for each of his NASA pre flight meals!³ The tradition lives on!
Bacon Wrapped Beef Fillet, Scrambled Eggs, Orange Juice, Coffee.
I’m not going to discuss how to make fresh squeezed orange juice or how to make the perfect cup of flight ready coffee. I’ll leave those details (pulp/no pulp, cream / sugar) up to the reader. I’m going to focus on the heart of the meal, the steak and the eggs. While many people, including Dr. Chiao preferred their eggs over easy, I’m including my recipe for scrambled eggs simply because it’s what I’ll order for my pre-flight meal!
2 8oz beef fillets
2 slices uncooked, hardwood smoked bacon
4 large eggs
4 tbsp salted butter
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Cast Iron Skillet.
Pastry spreader or Spatula
Plates or cutting board
Bacon Wrapped Fillet
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Trip 1/4 inch off each strip of bacon and set aside.
3. Wrap a slice of bacon around a fillet and secure with one or two toothpicks as needed. Note: leave only enough tooth pick outside the fillet to be able to retrieve it.
4. Repeat step 3 for the other fillet.
5. Put the cast iron skillet on a large burner and turn to low-high (7 if your range is on a scale of 1 to 10).
6. In the pan add 1 tsp of butter and let melt.
7. Next, place both fillets into pan and let cook for one minute.
8. Using the tongs, turn the fillets and cook for one minute on the other side.
9. At this point both sides of the fillets should be browned. If not, cook repeat steps 7 and 8.
10. Using the tongs put the fillets on their sides and cook for a minute.
11. Flip the fillets on the opposite side and let the bacon sizzle!
12. Rotate them again (90 degrees) to one of the uncooked sides for a minute.
13. One more time, rotate to the uncooked side and cook for a minute.
14. Transfer the fillets on to a plate and add the garlic to the skillet.
15. Saute the garlic for two minutes.
16. Separate the garlic with a fork or spatula into two piles in the skillet.
17. Place the fillets onto the garlic, salt and pepper, then place in oven.
18. Bake the fillets in the oven, rotating them every 4 to 5 minutes for 25 minutes.
19. Check the temperature of fillets using a meat thermometer. For medium rare it should read 130-140°F.
20. Place the fillets onto a clean dish.
21. Turn the burner back onto low-high (7) and add remaining butter, dash of salt and pepper into the skillet. NOTE: do not remove any drippings!
22. Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork or whisk.
23. Pour the eggs into skillet.
24. Using a pastry spreader or spatula push the eggs from the outside edge towards the center of the skillet.
25. As needed lift and turn the skillet to spread the uncooked egg onto the outer edges of the skillet.
26. As the eggs cook, fold or push the eggs from the outer edge towards the center.
27. Then the eggs solid, turn or flip them and let cook one minute.
28. Plate the fillets and eggs, ensuring that you have removed the toothpicks from the fillets!
This version of a breakfast heavily laden with tradition and ingrained in this history of the exploration of space is fit for any occasion. It is also one well fit for special occasions alike, including birthday’s, anniversary dinners, Dragon X launches or a post launch gathering of SpaceTweeps.
Bon appétit and Ad Astra
1 “This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury”; Loyd S. Swenson Jr.,James M. Grimwood,Charles C. Alexander, Published as NASA Special Publication-4201 in the NASA History Series, 1989. http://history.naThis New Ocean: A History of Project Mercurysa.gov/SP-4201/ch11-3.htm
2 “Pre-Launch Jitters and Then… Liftoff”; Dr. Leroy Chiao, Published on Gizmodo.com, 5/6/09; http://gizmodo.com/5241957/pre-launch-jitters-and-then-liftoff
³ Email Correspondence with Dr. Chio, 5/25/2014