Date cooked: January 16, 2022

Shakshuka is a North African tomato sauce with poached eggs. I saw a picture of it on the SeriousEats forum in Reddit and immediately knew I had to try to make it. It was fun and easy to make, colorful and aromatic; but it just didn’t click for us. I’m left pondering whether I’ll try again. You can find J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe here.

We start with plenty of fresh ingredients along with some canned whole tomatoes.

Shakshuka ingredients.

Slice the onion in thin rings; remove the stems, seeds, and ribs of a red bell pepper and a hot chili before slicing them.

Red bell pepper and Serrano chili for Shakshuka.

Finely chop some flat leaf parsley; you can use cilantro or a mix if you’d like.

Flat leaf parsley before chopping – with spices in the background.

Measure out healthy amounts of paprika and cumin.

Paprika and cumin

Slice some kalamata olives, and a few garlic cloves

Spices, garlic, and kalamata olives

Everybody smile!

Shakshuka mis en place.

Usually when making a dish including a tomato sauce I use diced tomatoes. But Kenji recommends using canned whole tomatoes because an additives that keeps the diced pieces in tact makes it hard to incorporate them in the sauce. Makes sense, so I tried what he suggested: break up the tomatoes by hand or with a pastry cutter.

Whole peeled tomatoes

After some rough handling…

Squished and broken canned tomatoes.

Now we are ready to cook. Heat plenty (3 Tablespoons) of olive oil in a sauté pan. (I love my Made-In 3½ pan for this). Then add the onions, bell pepper, and Serrano chile. it is so colorful!

Sautéing onions, bell pepper, and serrano chile.

Cook it down for about 10 minutes; don’t worry about charring it.

Sautéing onions, bell pepper, and serrano chile.

Then add the garlic for half a minute, then the spices for another 30 seconds. When it is nice and aromatic, add the tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Toss in half the parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It was really good!

Shakshuka tomato sauce almost ready for the eggs.

The instructions said to use a spoon to hollow out indentations for the eggs. That didn’t work, it was still so wet my indentations wouldn’t hold. Carla pushed some sauce aside and I added the eggs. Then I was supposed to spoon a bit of the sauce on the egg whites to help them cook, but that was difficult because the eggs took up so much of the space. Once the eggs are in, cover and cook on low for 5 to 8 minutes.

Finishing shakshuka.

And that was my third problem with the eggs: they wouldn’t set. I ended up cooking them for at least 12 minutes to get the whites to set. By then the yolks were too hard. You can see in the picture above, the white of the center egg is set while the three along the left side of the pan are still clear. So, my three problems with the eggs: no divot to fit them in, difficulty in spooning sauce over the top, and having them not set properly may have colored my eating experience.

At least I didn’t have to worry about the yolks breaking when I plated the dish. I sprinkled the olives and some more parsley to finish the dish. Use a nice bread to soak up the sauce.

Shakshuka for dinner

When I tasted the sauce before adding the eggs I was happy with the taste; but the finished product was a bit underwhelming. It could also be that 1½ teaspoons of paprika and 2 teaspoons of cumin are a little over powering.

I’ve been left pondering what to do if I make it again. I know I’ll leave out the eggs but would still like to have a bit of protein in it. To keep it vegetarian, I thought “Tofu!”; but combining Asian and North African cooking could be a bit too “weird”. But tofu is pretty darn neutral. Hmmm. Henriët recommended serving it over polenta. That would be nice, but no protein added there.

So, 2 or 3 stars? We think a provisional 3 stars for the sauce – meaning it would be on the regular rotation for home eating – but well leave out the eggs and do something, “different” with it.

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