I love eggs. I love eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is something about a yummy, runny egg yolk that sends me running for a crust of bread to dip in it. Last year, I received The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Deb Perelman, Random House 2012) as a gift at the holidays. Because my in-laws had already hosted numerous meals, I offered to make the final breakfast for the whole crew. Chef J’s brother-in-law is a strict carb avoider so I had to steer clear of most breakfast casseroles as they involve bread or potatoes. So I pulled out my new cookbook and set out searching. I landed on Baked Ranchero Eggs – eggs baked in lots of spicy tomato sauce and covered with a bit of melty cheese. Everyone was happy and full.
Now, if you are at all familiar with middle eastern or north African cuisine, the Ranchero Eggs may sound a lot like shakshuka. And it IS a lot like shakshuka. And actually, if you look at most cuisines, you’ll find eggs baked in spicy tomatoes (Huevos Rancheros in Mexico, Uovo in Purgatorio in Italy). But to me, the be-all-end-all is still shakshuka.
Shakshuka is one of those recipes that can feed just your little family or a big crowd. When I did my big family breakfast, I used my largest skillet and crowded a full dozen eggs in there. Served with a crumble of feta cheese and some thick naan or crusty bread for sopping up the sauce, you will be the brunch champion.
- 2 T good olive oil
- 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 1 small sweet onion, cut into thin strips
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 t cumin
- 1 t paprika
- 1/4 t crushed red pepper (more or less depending on how spicy you like it, Chef J wanted lots more)
- 28 oz can good quality tomatoes (San Marzano or fire roasted if you can get them)
- 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley (plus a little extra for garnish)
- 1 C crumbled feta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6-8 large eggs
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large oven proof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute pepper and onion until very soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and spices and cook one minute more.
While your veggies are cooking, dump your tomatoes in a big bowl and crush them with your hands. When veggies are cooked, add tomatoes and their juices to the skillet along with crushed red pepper. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and about 2/3 C of the cheese.
Gently crack eggs around the pan, trying to space them evenly. Season with salt and pepper and transfer skillet to oven. Bake until eggs are desired doneness, about 10 minutes (I like my yolks really runny).
Serve in shallow bowls garnished with remaining cheese and parsley with a big piece of bread for sopping up the spicy sauce and runny yolk.
By the way, I think this would also be a welcome addition to your Passover menu. By leaving out the bread (maybe substituting some matzos), this is perfectly Passover friendly. We enjoyed ours with some lovely roasted potatoes. I hope you enjoy it too!