There is nothing better than a perfectly cooked egg. Nothing. When the yolk quivers as the plate sets down, when you can dig in with the side of a fork and let loose a sticky marigold gush–not runny, not firm, but oozing like syrup–it’s high on my list of my favorite things. Poach the egg in a fragrant and spicy tomato sauce, and it’s even better.
I got the idea from Daisy, who blogged about this a few weeks ago. In form at least, her dish as well as mine resemble the Israeli dish shakshuka: a spicy, jumbled mess of tomatoes and swirled egg whites, with delicate yolk-peaks nestled on top. When you break into them, the richness of the yolks infuses and tames the tart spiciness of the sauce, mellowing the whole dish into something warm and exotic and primally comforting. It’s glorious.
My version includes mint, which is an ideal partner for tomato and spice. When I want an easy no-effort dinner, I take some storebought tomato soup and spike it with Sriracha and chopped mint leaves–it impresses people like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, you could very easily grab a bottle of tomato sauce, stir in some hot sauce and mint, poach your eggs in it and call it a day. I’ve included a little more of a recipe here, but it’s still not complicated; the mint is what makes it special.
As usual, this is a flexible little dish. I like a smoother sauce, so I left the onion, garlic and jalapeno whole and fished them out; if you want a chunkier sauce, you could dice or mince them and leave them in. You could add cumin or smoked paprika for a smoky backbone, or stir in olives or capers for brininess. You could render some bacon and use the fat to saute the aromatics. You could soft-scramble the eggs in the sauce instead of poaching them. You could crumble fresh feta cheese over the top (note to self: do this next time). And you can serve this over just about anything you like–I used tortellini in the photo, but any other pasta, or rice or couscous or quinoa or crusty toasted bread, would be terrific.
Eggs in Spicy Minted Tomato Sauce (serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as an appetizer)
Inspired by Daisy’s World
1 (28 oz) can crushed or whole peeled tomatoes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow or sweet onion, trimmed, peeled and quartered
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded
1 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint OR 1 tsp dried mint
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
Cooked pasta OR toasted bread, for serving
If using whole peeled tomatoes, pour the contents of the can into a bowl. If there are basil leaves, remove them. Use your hands to crush the tomatoes, then set the bowl aside. (If using crushed tomatoes, skip this step, obviously.)
In a deep-sided skillet or frying pan with a lid, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion pieces and cook for 5 minutes on each of the cut sides, until they are just starting to turn translucent. Add garlic and jalapeno and let sizzle for another minute or two, then add crushed tomatoes, hot sauce, and bay leaf. If you’re using dried mint, add it now. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and coalesced. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the onion pieces, garlic, jalapeno, and bay leaf. If you’re using fresh mint, stir it in, then season with salt and pepper.
Return the sauce to a bare simmer–you want small gentle bubbles, not a full rolling boil. Gently crack the eggs into the sauce, making sure they’re evenly spaced in the pan. Cover the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the whites are just barely set. (Alternately, if you prefer your eggs scrambled, beat them thoroughly before adding them to the sauce, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are almost-but-not-quite done to your liking.) Remove from the heat and spoon the eggs and sauce over your choice of serving bed–pasta or bread. Sprinkle on a little extra fresh mint, if you have it, and serve immediately.
You can make the sauce ahead of time, transfer it to an airtight container, and either refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months. The eggs should be poached just before serving.