One of these mornings, you might awaken to find you have a little extra time on your hands. Maybe it’s a holiday. Or you’re working from home waiting for the cable guy.
Or maybe, like my husband and I this past weekend, you look out your window and see that your car and home are now buried under 30 inches of snow:
Since thinking about how we were going to dig our way out was so bloody stressful, we decided to focus on food. We’d been warned in advance about Snowzilla, so I made sure to stock up on the essentials. My thoughts immediately went to the bottles of wine cooling in the garage. Don’t be ridiculous, it’s only 9am, I scolded myself. At least wait until noon.
Until then we’d try out a breakfast recipe we’d both been eyeing separately.
Me: I’m thinking about trying this Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce recipe from my new Paleo cookbook. It’s by America’s Test Kitchen, one of your favorites. Are you in?
Hubby: Huh. What’s in it? (glances at recipe photo) That looks almost identical to the Gordon Ramsay recipe I was going to make for you. It’s called North African Poached Eggs, or Shakshouka, but I think it might be the same thing.
Great minds think alike. Which is amazing because our food goals couldn’t be any farther apart.
My husband’s interest in food lies mainly in the science and technique of it all. And when he’s not tinkering with recipes, he’s a food minimalist. On the regular, he is content to eat the same dry sandwich for three weeks straight. Just bread, meat and cheese. No condiments. No sauce. Nothing slathered, drizzled or poured. It drives me crazy. Who does that? A hard core foodie, I just don’t understand how people can live like that when there is so much overflowing and delicious bounty in the food kingdom.
Science, he calmly states. Efficiency.
Umami! I insist, jumping up and down excitedly at just the thought of what’s about to hit my taste buds.
He eats to live. I live to eat. Somehow it works. Through me he’s become more exposed to plant-based, Paleo and pescatarian meals. Through him I’ve learned the finer points of food prep used by classically-trained chefs, such as how to make foolproof emulsions or cut vegetables swiftly without chopping off your fingers. He’s a basic meat-and-potatoes guy, but makes a special effort to explore dishes that he knows I’ll eat.
Somebody has to dispose of all the meals borne from his experimentation. And I am just the person for the job.
We decided to tackle the America’s Test Kitchen recipe first, even though it had a few extra steps. Here’s our little Snowzilla cook-off adventure:
Version #1: Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce (from Paleo Perfected by America’s Test Kitchen)
2 tomatoes, cored and halved
2 onions, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons tomato paste
Kosher salt and pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups jarred roasted red peppers, chopped coarse
1/2 cup water
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 large eggs
- Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Toss tomatoes and onions with 1 tablespoon oil and and spread onto aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; arrange tomatoes cut side down. Broil vegetables until softened and tomato skins are well charred, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through broiling. Transfer vegetables to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 5 pulses.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add bell peppers and cook until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste begins to darken, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in processed tomato mixture, red peppers, water, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Off heat, discard bay leaves and stir in 1/4 cup cilantro. Transfer 2 cups sauce to now-empty processor and process until smooth, about 60 seconds. Return puree to skillet and bring sauce to simmer over medium-low heat.
- Off heat, make 4 shallow indentations (about 3 inches wide) in surface of sauce using back of spoon. Crack 2 eggs into each indentation and season eggs with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until eggs whites are just set and yolks are still runny, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and serve immediately.
To get other commercial-kitchen-tested Paleo recipes from America’s Test Kitchen, you can click on the book image below or this link Paleo Perfected, to purchase their cookbook. Available in Kindle and soft cover formats.
The Pros: Flavor? Delicious. My husband likes his poached eggs runny, but I asked him to let mine set a bit longer so I could get this perfect firm-but-not-all-the-way-cooked result. Added bonus: the recipe yielded so much there was enough to pack up for my breakfast the next day. Score!
The Cons: The extra trouble of having to involve a food processor plus an oven for roasting some of the ingredients, dampened our enthusiasm a bit…especially when we realized the Gordon Ramsey version skipped over all that and offered us a one-pot cooking method. I’d say if you have the extra time and help in the kitchen, plus are a big fan of roasted vegetable flavor and want to work on your food prep technique, this is a great recipe to try. But if you’re a lazy cook like me, you might prefer Gordon’s simplified version listed below. Also, we thought the omission of spring onions in this recipe was a mistake. So we “fixed” it.
Version #2: North African Poached Eggs (Shakshouka), by Gordon Ramsey, Ultimate Cookery Course, 2013
Olive oil, for frying
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 green pepper, deseeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (add a pinch of sugar* if the tomatoes aren’t quite ripe)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
*Terri’s Note: I’m not a fan of refined sugar, so my choice would be to substitute coconut sugar, or maple sugar
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
1 spring onion, trimmed and finely chopped
- Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add a dash of oil and sweat the onions for 5 minutes until soft. Add the peppers and continue to sweat for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and chili and fry for 1-2 minutes until soft and tender.
- Add the cumin and fry for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, season and cook for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes have completely collapsed (add 3-4 tablespoons of water to the mixture if the tomatoes aren’t that moist.) The mixture should be the consistency of a thick sauce. Stir to mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Make 4 wells in the tomato mixture and break an egg into each well. Cover the pan and cook gently over a medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes, or until the egg white is set and the yolk is still a little runny.
- Serve sprinkled with coriander (cilantro) leaves and chopped spring onion, plus plenty of crusty bread on the side to mop up any juices.
Gordon Ramsay, Ultimate Cookery Course by Hodder & Stoughton, Text © Gordon Ramsay 2013.
The Pros: Simplified prep; one-pot cooking. Required half the amount of eggs, yet was still filling enough for two. Another bonus: we were able to find a video demo online (see below), which further inspired confidence of how easy this recipe was to throw together.
The Cons: The seasoning blend from the America’s Test Kitchen recipe sounded more interesting and vibrant, so we substituted that instead. For one, we couldn’t bear to part with the turmeric, which in addition to its health properties really added a lot of depth of flavor to the previous recipe. Also, we discovered we didn’t have coriander seeds on hand, but we didn’t care because neither of us fancied the idea of crunchy bits with each mouthful. So we switched up and used coriander powder instead. Finally, we thought the introduction of crusty bread was a waste of bad carbs, and totally unnecessary, so we ditched it. The dish stands alone as is.
To sum up, both recipes were delicious and took advantage of pantry items most cooks already stock at home (we only needed to make an advance run to the store for fresh cilantro, some tomatoes and a few bell peppers), but the Gordon Ramsay version took less time, equipment and clean-up effort. Though, to my taste, it did require more seasoning adjustments to get exactly the flavor profile we were looking for. Which is a move I’m sure Gordon would scream his head off about, call me a donkey and then ban me from his restaurants for life. (I love him. He’s so deliciously unhinged!)
All you need to top either off is some sliced avocado and maybe a pop of Sriracha sauce, and you’re good.