Be honest. Who doesn’t love a good biscuit?
I never really understood just how worshipped biscuits are until I moved to the South. Living in a former French colony certainly gave me a deep, deep appreciation of the croissant, which has a similar flour-to-fat ratio. Biscuits are firmly embedded in the fast food culture of South Carolina as well, including the heretofore unknown-to-me Bojangle’s.
Fast food aside, have I had some amazing biscuits! The best, thus far, have come from Poogan’s Porch, a fantastic and allegedly haunted restaurant in Downtown Charleston.
I have learned quickly that around here biscuits are acceptable with just about any dish, so pairing them with shakshuka – eggs poached in rich tomato sauce – didn’t seem like a stretch at all. Shakshuka is a North African dish wherein you make a thick tomato sauce with onions, garlic, chili pepper, and spices and poach eggs therein. Because of its heat, many chefs will put it the menu as “Eggs in Hell.” Believe me: spicy as it may be, there is nothing hellish about it.
I love the simplicity of shakshuka. For very few ingredients, the flavor really pops. Gluten-free friends take heed: it is safe for you (just stay away from the biscuits). Busy parents: it is so quick and easy! Hosts-with-the-mosts: cook it for your friends and watch them raise an eyebrow at how odd it looks. Then enjoy their pleasure-moans as they take their first bite.
Or don’t. I’m weird.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices
¾ teaspoon salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
6 large eggs
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Hot sauce or sriracha, for serving
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes. Don’t rush this part. You want these guys soft!
Add sliced garlic and cook until tender, 2 minutes. Stir in cumin, paprika and cayenne, and cook 1 minute. Pour in tomato juice and pulverize each plum tomatoes with your fingers until all of them are in the skillet. This creates a nice uneven texture for the sauce. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer the sauce until thickened, 10-15 minutes.
With a spoon, work six tiny depressions in the sauce. Crack an egg into each depression, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, 7 to 9 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with hot sauce or sriracha. Cha cha cha!