Shakshuka: Hella Fire

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?

IMG_1191As 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.

IMG_1192 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.

IMG_1193This 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!

IMG_1194Ta-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.