When I was a kid, I loved staying at my grandparent’s house. At home, breakfast was usually self-service cereal but, at my grandparent’s house, my grandmother would always cook; bacon and eggs, mostly, with toast, and sometimes waffles from scratch that came out of an old black and chrome waffle iron that she had sitting on the counter. My grandmother never ventured out when it came to breakfast, simply because my grandfather expected bacon, eggs, and toast, so that’s what she made.
To this day, a bacon and eggs breakfast is still one of my favorite meals, and it’s one that I do a few times a month. It goes over well in this house, too, because my son developed the same…let’s call it an appreciation, not an addiction…for bacon that I have. But we’re a bit more adventurous than my grandparents were, and so we like to mix things up a bit, try new dishes, and explore new cuisines.
I know, it’s awesome to say! It’s also delicious. Shakshuka (or shakshouka) is a popular dish of North African origin of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s super easy to make, extremely flavorful, and makes for a nice alternative to my normal weekend breakfast routine. It’s also healthy, and I dare so it has enough spice and substance that I don’t miss the bacon.
The ingredients for shakshuka are straight forward. No bacon, but plenty of tomatoes (obviously), eggs, garlic, onion, chilis for heat, a little cumin, some paprika, and salt. A bit of olive oil. Some parsley and feta thrown in at the end.
Start by seeding and chopping the chiles. I used Anaheim here, but jalapeños will work, too. The tomatoes, egg, and other ingredients in the finished dish take a lot of the heat out of the peppers, so even if you’re not a hot head, start with either four Anaheim or two jalapeños the first time you make the dish to get a good starter level of spice, then adjust accordingly the next time you make the dish (and you will).
Remember, even if you’re using mild chilis, after chopping even a few of them, the chili oils will build up on your hands. Use gloves to help prevent the after effects, and remember to not touch your face.
Chop the onions to roughly the same size as the chilis.
With the chilis and onions chopped, grab the garlic and crush it with the flat side of your knife. Once the garlic is flat, slice.
That’s it for knife work. Now it’s time to cook. Heat up a your skillet, then add the oil. Once the oil is up to temperature, add the chilis and onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and starting to brown, about 6 minutes.
While the onions are sautéing, it’s time to get the spices ready. I love the process of grinding spices myself. Seeds like cumin really lend themselves to a little extra work, and that release of their aroma will fill the room.
Whether you are grinding the spices yourself or using ground cumin and paprika, measure out your spices and get them ready to add to the skillet.
Once the chilis and onions are soft, add the garlic, cumin, and paprika. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes. At this point, the aroma of the cumin and the paprika is probably making you salivate. That’s perfectly normal, but we’re not done yet so stay strong.
Empty the can of tomatoes in to a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands. Add the tomatoes, along with 1/2 cup of water, to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken slightly, about 20 minutes, which is probably going to seem like an eternity, but it will be worth it. Go read a book.
Once the sauce is thickened, season it with salt. Now it’s time to add the eggs. Gently crack the eggs in to the sauce, spacing them evenly. Depending on the size of your skillet and the size of the eggs, you should be able to fit 6 -8 eggs in the skillet. Once all the eggs are in, cover the pan until the yolks are set. If you’re using large eggs near room temperature, that should take 5 minutes.
Once the yolks are set, remove the lid and gently baste the eggs with the sauce. Sprinkle the shakshuka with the feta (a nice addition but not traditional) and parsley. Serve, and enjoy!
The colors in this dish are beautiful; so beautiful, that it might seem intimidating. But honestly, this dish almost makes itself with how simply it’s put together. A little chopping, a little mixing, and a little patience both for the sauce to thicken and for the eggs to set. Give it a try this weekend!
Adapted from Saveur Magazine: Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 Anaheim chiles or 3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 – 8 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
6 – 8 eggs
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pita, for serving
Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pita, for dipping.
Serves 4 – 6
Start with 3-4 Anaheim or 2 jalapeños the first time you make the recipe and adjust from their. Any fewer and you may not pick up any heat at all.
Use a pan that is large enough to accommodate the number of eggs you want to us. If you crowd the pan too much, you risk breaking the yolks during the basting step.