Shakshuka (Eggs in purgatory)

Shakshuka

During the last few months of my pregnancy, I had to increase my protein intake. Lucky for me, J found several recipes that tasted good, included several servings of vegetables and had lots of protein. This one from Tori Avey with a few modifications quickly became one of our favorites.

You can modify the spice level based on your tastes. If you want to add more eggs, feel free! It’s just as good the next morning on toast like huevos rancheros.

Print Recipe
Shakshuka (Eggs in purgatory)
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium (we use our cast iron skillet for this).
  2. Heat olive oil in the pan.
  3. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
  4. Add garlic and continue to sauté until mixture is fragrant.
  5. Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat until softened.
  6. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir to blend.
  7. Add spices and sugar, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for another 5 to 7 minutes until it starts to reduce.
  8. Taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences.
  9. At a minimum, add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. You can also add more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka.
  11. Sprinkle the feta over the dish, or mix it in if you like.
  12. Then crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. In our cast iron skillet, we can get about five eggs around the outer edge and one in the center.
  13. The eggs will cook over easy on top of the tomato sauce. If you prefer more done eggs, you can heat the oven to 350 degrees and cook in the oven until set (when the skillet is jiggled, the eggs don't jiggle back).
  14. We leave the mixture uncovered and let simmer for between 5 and 15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced.
  15. Be careful at this point, because the mixture can go from reducing to burning quickly. 
  16. Serve in a bowl alone, over rice or with some french bread.

My opinion:
This dish is delicious hot or cold. With sides or alone. It’s easy, filling and perfect for a late fall evening.

p.s. Summer 2016 update: without the cayenne pepper and the chili powder, our toddler loves this dish. We just add the extra spices onto our own plates. 

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Indian at home: Chicken Vindaloo

Indian at home.
Indian at home.

Sadly, our town is lacking in good Indian cuisine. Which means, this fall J and I have decided to figure out how to make it at home. We’ll tackle naan soon, especially since we discovered how easy the main dishes can be. We tried Chicken Vindaloo from our new favorite site rasamalaysia.com. The directions were easy to follow, easier than finding all the ingredients! With a few modifications, we had a meal that rivaled any local Indian restaurant.

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, cut up into 8 pieces and skin removed (We used about 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts because that’s what we had on hand)
1 onion, chopped (we used a large yellow onion)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 tsp each Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons oil (we used olive)

Spice Blend:
1/2 cup vinegar (white)
4-5 dried red Chile peppers (we used dried, whole red chilis)
4 cloves (we used ground)
8 garlic cloves, skin removed (we used minced about 2 tablespoons)
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon paprika powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions:
Add vinegar and soak all the ingredients needed for the spice blend for 15-20 minutes. Then blend these into a fine paste using a blender. (we used the food processor and with the added vinegar, this turned very runny. Next time, we’ll remove the spices from the vinegar and then re-add it at the end). Add the spice mixture paste to the chicken and toss well to evenly coat all the chicken pieces. Let the chicken marinate for 4 to 6 hours. In a large wok heat the oil on medium heat. Add the marinated chicken and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Stirring often. Add the chopped onions, tomato paste, salt and pepper to the chicken. Give everything a good stir. Finally add 1/2 cup of water (we omitted this step since it was already pretty runny), cover the lid of the skillet and lower the heat to low. Let the chicken simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes or till well done and the oil start to ooze from the curry. If you prefer little thinner gravy add water as need and let it simmer for another 4 to 5 minutes before serving. Like the original author, we prefer the gravy to be thick and sticking to the meat pieces. Serve immediately over basmati rice.

My Opinion:
The sauce was a little runny for our tastes and it wasn’t quite as spicy as we like our vindaloo. Next time, we’ll use the spice blend as a run without the vinegar and add it at the end.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon


If you’ve seen Julie and Julia, then you know Beef Bourguignon can be so much more than just Beef Bourguignon. I can assure you, this dish is worth it. It is not a weeknight dish. It is not a leave it on the stove and forget it dish, but it is unfathomably delicious. Make this on a rainy day weekend, it is perfect for fall. Since I’m not lucky enough to have the Julia Child cookbook, My sister adapted this recipe from ABC’s Good Morning America. She’s the one who slaved over the stove for several hours and deserves all the credit.

Ingredients:
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (since no local grocer carries  this, we just used regular thick cut bacon)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes  (or go with the already cut stew meat from your favorite butcher)
1 carrot, sliced (we used a mandolin at 1/4 setting)
1 onion, sliced (we used a mandolin at 1/4 setting)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy. HyVee, our go to wine retailer was out of these, so we went with their recommendation, which was a Bordeaux)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (we used the box variety)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small (the pearl onions worked fine for us)
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered (we cheated and used pre-sliced button mushrooms)
1 pound (bag) of egg noodles
Directions: Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long).Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Since we were using bacon we skipped the steps above and went right to sauteeing the bacon in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly (we used a cast iron skillet). Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees (this is when we moved everything to a casserole dish, seems our casserole pan is only oven safe to 400 degrees). Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan (We just used a mesh strainer). Wash out the casserole (we skipped this to leave all the delicious crusty bits) and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

My opinion:
Over egg noodles this dish is just divine. There are no additional words to describe it.

Homemade Gray’s Papaya Hot Dogs

On our recent trip to NYC, J and I had a culinary tour of the city fueled by recommendations by forum community members on ChowHound. One of the recommendations was for Gray’s Papaya and didn’t let us down. In fact, we liked it so much, we scoured the internet when we got home to find a recipe for the onion sauce. After a few trial and errors, we found this one on noshcookbook.com. It’s practically perfect!

Ingredients:
1-2 Vidalia onions, sliced (we used a mandolin)
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons butter for sauteing onions.
1/4 cup of white vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lite corn syrup
1 teaspoon cornstarch
few dashes of salt
1/4 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
couple of turns of fresh ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic

Directions:
In a frying pan over medium-high heat melt butter and saute’ onions and garlic with a few dashes of salt and turns of fresh ground black pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients into a small mixing bowl. Once caramelized, add the rest of the ingredients and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened.

My opinion:
The ideal hot dog to use is Nathan’s, but living in the Midwest, they are hard to come by. A really, really close option is Oscar Mayer New York Style hot dogs. With the onion sauce, it’s so close to the original that if I close my eyes, I could be in NYC.

Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti Squash

Like everyone else the two days before the holidays are hectic. Putting finishing touches on things, wrapping up at the office, there are a million things vying for our attention the last two weeks of the year. Which is why I’ve turned to the trusty crockpot to make our dinners this past week. After a quick search on my new favorite recipe finding site, Pinterest. I found this simple, basic Chicken Cacciatore (originally from this blog, I think) and it was wonderful.

Since we were out of a few ingredients (like mushrooms, feel free to include them if you want!) I made a few tweaks.

Ingredients:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 large onion, sliced into half moons
1/2 large carrot, shredded
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used green, it was what we had on hand)
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used the ones with onion and garlic added)
3 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs minced garlic
Italian seasoning to taste
1 large spaghetti squash

Directions:
Chop up the vegetables and place them in the bottom of the crockpot. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and Italian seasonings. (Frozen is ok!) Place the chicken on top of the veggies. Mix the tomatoes, tomato paste and garlic. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. (I cooked on high for 4 hours. ) When there’s an hour left for the dish to cook, poke at least 12 holes in the spaghetti squash. Roast in a 375 degree oven for at least an hour, remove and let cool. If you want to reduce the liquid once the chicken is done cooking, remove the chicken from the crockpot and pour the vegetables and sauce into a large saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes uncovered, or until it is thickened. While the sauce is simmering, cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fiberous middle. Use a fork to pull the remaining flesh into strands. Plate the spaghetti squash and pour the sauce and chicken over the squash.
My opinion:
This was so easy, I made a freezer bag of the ingredients so I could just toss it in the crock pot on another super busy evening. I’ll add a bit more garlic and Italian seasoning next time. This would be equally good over rice or pasta. Enjoy!