When some, or all seven, of my siblings and their families come home to The Angle for Christmas, each family is tasked with serving up one breakfast and one dinner. This is no small feat, considering there could be as many as 46 of us when everyone is home.
We choose dishes that do well for a crowd but are more exciting than the everyday fare we’re used to. I first tasted shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka) when a dear friend from Israel made it for me. She kept her spices very simple, only salt, pepper and a good olive oil, she said. The dish was new to me, and I marveled as she poached the eggs right in the tomato-y sauce – which is the signature of this traditional North African-turned-Middle Eastern dish. She served it with a crusty sourdough bread, and it was absolute perfection.
I’ve since made it many times, Minnesotanizing it with butter and simpler fried eggs, and also “Mexicanizing” it with the cumin and serving it on tortillas with cilantro or avocado. Shakshuka is having its moment right now; you can find hundreds of recipes for it on the web. Here is my own loose recipe (that I probably quadrupled) to feed my Christmas family crowd. All but the pickiest kids loved it.
The recipe here should serve about six hungry adults. If you have leftovers, eat it on a piece of buttered toast or on top of a green salad. The flavors are fresh and delicious.
Heat a large skillet slowly over medium-low heat, adding the olive oil and butter once the pan is hot. If you’ve got a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, definitely use it for this dish. Dice a large yellow onion and add it to the hot oil. I tend to let the onions cook for a bit before adding the rough chopped bell peppers and tomatoes simple because I love the house-filling aroma of onions cooking in butter. That, and setting a pot of coffee to brew, will get anyone out of bed.
Add a teaspoon or more (I like more) of cumin and liberally season with sea salt and pepper. (You can also add fresh garlic, green bell peppers, paprika, coriander, or red pepper flakes, whatever you have on hand and sounds good. Canned tomato products will also work in a pinch.)
Let it simmer and reduce for 10-15 minutes, stirring now and then. It should be like a thick stew. I let it cook down too long one year but adding broth and/or tomato juice will bring it back to the right consistency. Be sure to taste it and add more spices or salt and pepper as needed. If it’s too acidic, add a tablespoon of sugar.
Traditional shakshuka recipes call for poaching the eggs directly in the sauce. Make a well in the sauce for each egg, add them and then cover and simmer for an additional 5-7 minutes. When I cooked this for my family crowd, I also steam-fried extra eggs on the side simply because of the number of people.
To toast the corn tortillas, heat a griddle and rub it lightly with olive oil. Lightly toast them on both sides and sprinkle with a little sea salt. For a hearty breakfast, spread a spoonful of warmed refried beans on a toasted tortilla, top it with an egg, a generous ladle of the shakshuka and then add cotija or parmesan cheese, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.
“Oh, for yum!” said the Minnesotan.
(published in the Dec 26th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)
A Minnesotan’s Mexican Shakshuka
1 large yellow onion
3 red bell peppers – seeded and chopped
4-5 large tomatoes – roughly chopped, include the juice and seeds
3 Tbsp olive oil – or more as needed
2 Tbsp butter
1-2 tsp cumin
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Corn tortillas – 1-2 per person plus olive oil and sea salt
Eggs – 1-2 per person
Other delicious options: Warmed Refried Beans, Sliced Avocado, Cotija or Parmesan Cheese, Black Olives, Diced Cilantro