Eggs in Pipérade
Cracking a bright yellow yolk into a fragrant tomato mélange is just one variation on an old world theme that never gets tired, is easy to prepare and always hits the spot
By Louise Crosby
My Dad was never much of a cook, but in his later years he started making Chinese stir-fries. Shrimp stir-fry was his signature dish, worthy of special family dinners. This was good; it gave my mother a break from the kitchen and it gave him a new interest in his retirement.
Another dish my Dad knew his way around, because he was practically raised on it as a boy in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was fried potatoes and bologna, with sliced bread and molasses on the side. Good, honest food, I guess. Later, after most everyone stopped eating bologna, he would make his own lunches when he was home by emptying leftovers into a fry pan (hopefully there was potato!), giving it a sizzle, and then breaking an egg over the top.
He was definitely on to something. Eggs cracked over food, or particularly simmered in tomato sauce, is traditional in many cultures, with variations. Tunisia and Israel have their shakshuka, Mexico has its huevos rancheros, Turkey has its mememen, and Italy has its uova al pomodoro. And in her latest cookbook A Girl and Her Greens, April Bloomfield presents yet another version: eggs pipérade from the Basque region of Spain. These are eggs poached in a soft, luscious stew of tomatoes, onions, garlic and sweet peppers cooked slowly in olive oil. Easy to make, healthy and delicious, but technique is important here; you’ll get the best results if you follow her instructions.
If you’re not keen on runny yolks, you can scramble the eggs with the pipérade or stuff the pipérade into an omelet. Whatever your preference, this dish is best eaten with toast to mop up the sauce.
The tomato sauce recipe that Bloomfield uses in this dish is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. You’ll only need one cup of it for the eggs pipérade, but it can be frozen in air-tight containers for other uses down the road, including the eggplant parmigiana post featured a while back.
Eggs in Piperade
2 pounds mixed yellow and red bell peppers (about 4 medium), halved lengthwise, seeded and de-ribbed.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a healthy drizzle for finishing
1 medium red onion (about ½ pound) halved and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup Simple Tomato Sauce, at room temperature
1 five-finger pinch of basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for finishing
3 large eggs
5 dried pequin chiles, crumbled, or pinches of red pepper flakes
Peel the skin from the peppers using a vegetable peeler and a gentle sawing motion. Slice the peppers into long strips that are somewhere between ¼ and ½ inch thick. Set them aside.
Heat the ¼ cup of oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Push the onion to one side of the pot and add the garlic to the oil. Cook, stirring the garlic occasionally but not the onions, until the garlic turns light golden and smells toasty, about 3 minutes. Stir it all together and cook, stirring now and then, until the onion is lightly browned and very soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the peppers to the pot along with the remaining 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom after awhile, until the onions start to disintegrate and the peppers are tender but not at all mushy, about 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep cooking, stirring and scraping, until the pot gets lovely brown sticky stuff on it and the peppers get a bit softer, about 5 minutes more. Have a taste. The peppers should be really sweet and have a meaty texture. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook at a good sizzle until it thickens slightly, a few minutes. If the mixture is dry, stir in ½ cup water (mine was liquidy enough without the addition of water). Add the basil and let the mixture return to a simmer. Season to taste with salt.
Add the eggs to the pot, cover with a lid, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the eggs are to your liking, 4 to 5 minutes for nice runny yolks. Sprinkle the chiles on the yolks, scatter on the rest of the basil, drizzle on some olive oil, and serve straightaway.
Serves: 2 as a main
THE EX-PRESS, November 4, 2015