eggs in purgatory

Serves 2 to 4

Music Pairing: Journey of the Featherless by Cloud Cult

There are many things I’ll miss about being in this city. On those mornings when I need to get lost in my own thoughts, I wander into Cafe Mogador in the East Village after dropping the girls at school. A creature of habit, I order the Moroccan Eggs, poached in a spicy tomato sauce, served with thick, fluffy, warm pita. A big pot of sweetened mint tea are a must, too.

This recipe is a mash up of that dish, also known as shakshuka, and an Italian recipe called Eggs in Purgatory. Guanciale, pork jowl, is what is usually used by Italians, but nubby chunks of bacon or pancetta are common substitutes. In a pinch, when neither are available, I use proscuittto, which I always have in the fridge. That is the version I’m sharing below. Note: the Israeli dish, shakshuka, doesn’t use any pork, so you can also leave it out all together for a vegetarian friendly meal.

The sauce is meant to have a spicy kick, but you can scale back on the pepper flakes, for a milder version (which I often do, for the kids). If you want to up the spice factor, fresh chopped jalapenos simmered in the sauce will do the trick nicely.

2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot chili flakes

4 to 5 slices (42 grams) Prosciutto di Parma, roughly chopped

One 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes

Generous pinch of dried basil

Sea salt, to taste

6 eggs

Add the oil to a 10-inch skillet, and heat over medium-low flame until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, chili flakes, and prosciutto. Saute until the onions are lightly golden, and softened, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. It will look like there’s too much oil—don’t worry. It’ll give the sauce some body once you add the tomatoes.

Use your hands to squeeze the tomatoes, crushing them, as you add them to the pan. Pour in any juices from the can, too. Add the basil, and season with the salt. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce the flame to a simmer. Let cook for 20 minutes.

At this point, the sauce can transferred to jars, cooled, and then stored in the fridge or freezer.

If using immediately, use a spoon to create six little “pools” in the sauce. This is where your eggs will rest to cook. Crack the eggs, one at a time, into each of the wells you created, letting each egg set for 30 seconds to 1 minute before cracking the next one. You can crack them into a ramekin first, and then slide them into the skillet, if that feels more comfortable.

Gently spoon some of the sauce over the whites of the eggs, being carefully not to cover the yolks. Cover the skillet, and let cook until the whites are set, about 3 minutes. Keep a close eye, to make sure you don’t overcook the yolks if you prefer them a bit runny.

Bring the skillet to the table, and serve family style, with a crusty loaf of country bread.