Shakshuka and Biscuits

Be honest. Who doesn’t love a good biscuit?

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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.

finished biscuits

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.

shakshuka

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.

flour mess
Poogan’s Porch Buttermilk Biscuits
Yields Six 2oz. Biscuits
1 Cup sifted self-rising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup shortening
4 oz. buttermilk (room temp)
Melted butter (for brushing)
Mix flour, baking powder, and sugar thoroughly – cut in shortening until you have course crumbs – add buttermilk and mix until just combined. Put dough mixture on a floured surface for kneading. Pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness and use biscuit cutter. Put biscuits on lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 min. or until golden brown.
PS: Brush with melted butter the second they come out of the oven. You won’t regret it.
PPS: You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to whole or 2% milk and letting it stand for 10 minutes.

Shakshuka (adapted from The New York Times)
Serves 3 hungry adults or 6 adults who only want one egg

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!

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