Shakshuka – eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce – is a dish I read about ages ago and thought sounded amazing, but always found some way to not pick for dinner. I finally got around to it last night using Melissa Clark’s recipe from the New York Times. The results are best described in the recipe’s comment section by user Federal Pioneer:
“Bomb daddy. Didn’t have the peps, but went hard in the paint anyway. Hella fire. x”
With an endorsement like that, how could I possibly put it off any longer?
As you can see, I did have the peps, and I do think they added a lot to the flavor. I would slice them thinner than I did – it was Friday night and I was hungry, so I was feeling a little lazy with knife cuts. The onions cooked down nicely but the peppers ended up a little chunky and crunchy instead of soft and melty because they were sliced too thickly.
I’ll take pretty much any excuse to break out my cast iron pan. Since all the spices were added at the same time, I just threw them all in a little bowl to dump into the pan so one didn’t get toasted more than another before I mushed (the technical term) them together with the peppers, onions and garlic.
This is my sauce pre-eggs. I’ll cop to having some uppity kitchen habits, and two of them are on display here: whole peeled canned tomatoes and block feta cheese. Buying only whole canned tomatoes and then pureeing/chopping/crushing them as needed is advice I got both from my nana (who is a phenomenal Italian cook) and Lidia Bastianich (if my nana wasn’t my nana, I’d want her). They are absolutely right about this – the texture is vastly improved. I used my food processor, but if you don’t have one you could just scoop out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and chop them up on a cutting board before adding them in with the juices. I used the 365 brand canned tomatoes here and I did think they were a little watery – Cento is better. I like buying the blocks of feta in water because I find the pre-crumbled variety too dry. If you do that with this recipe, pat the block with a paper towel before crumbling it into the sauce, otherwise it will add too much moisture. Make sure to taste the seasoning, too – that much tomato requires a good amount of salt, otherwise the sauce will be very bland. The recipe doesn’t call for basil, but my basil plant is a monster and needed pruning – it definitely didn’t hurt!
Ta-daaaa! We figured two eggs per person was a good dinner portion. The recipe says to bake the eggs until the eggs are “just set”, which to me means set whites and runny yolks. She says 7-10 minutes, but my oven was finicky and it took more like 10-13 minutes. The full sauce recipe was a little excessive for this pan, so I scooped some out and put it in the fridge for baked eggs cups this weekend. It tasted phenomenal – the sweetness of the tomatoes is a great backdrop for the spices, which are flavorful but not overpowering by any means. I got some crusty bread for mopping up the extra sauce and that was all we needed for a satisfying dinner. If you’re thinking about going hard in the paint on this recipe, just do it.