I don’t know when I first discovered shakshouka but I know when I first fell in love with it. It was in Israel, in Tel Aviv, in a weird ramshakle restaurant that everyone knew about. If you ask someone who has eaten shakshouka in Tel Aviv where they had it, most likely the answer will be “Dr Shakshouka.” It’s not a fancy place, more what you would call a dive with mismatched decorations and cheap dishware. And it’s not like shakshouka is a unique dish; it’s very common in Israel and in other countries in the region as well. It’s just that Dr Shakshouka is the best.
Shakshouka, literally meaning “mixture”, is just eggs poached in tomato sauce. Italins call it eggs in purgatory but the idea is the same. At Dr. Shakshouka you can have your shakshouka plain or spicy and with a variety of vegetables, mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, or just on its own. A few scoops of sauce are thrown into a hot pan placed over an intense gas flame until the sauce bubbles violently and then when things are really hot, the eggs are added. When I sat at the table, watching the chef juggle the hot pans on the stove, I was sure it wouldn’t come out right. But when the hot pan was placed in front of me and I broke into an egg the yolk was still soft. It pooled into the tomato sauce, enriching it, just right to sop up with some bread.
I can’t recreate the Doctor’s shakshouka in my own kitchen – my stove just doesn’t have the BTUs to get the sauce that hot and poach the eggs that quickly. I’ve tried to recreate the heat and speed of the original but mostly I just overcook the eggs and scorch the tomato sauce on the edges of the pan. I’ve switched to a lower heat with the tomatoes barely at a simmer so the eggs cook gently. Less fire and intensity but still rich tomato sauce, poached eggs, and bread.
Makes one serving but it’s easy to scale up
1/2 – 3/4 cup tomato sauce, depending on how much you want (like this one, perhaps)
Up to ½ cup extra chopped vegetables (optional – I love using mushrooms or spinach)
Bread, for serving
HEAT the sauce over medium-high heat in a pan with a wide enough bottom that it forms a layer no more than an inch deep. For ¾ cup of sauce I use an 8-inch nonstick pan and it works well. Heat the sauce until it’s steaming slightly and there are a few little bubbles just around the edges.
ADD the eggs to the warmed sauce, making a little well for each one with a spatula or wooden spoon so that they stay separate. Or don’t bother if the presentation isn’t so important to you.
COVER the pan with a lid or create a makeshift lid but putting a piece of foil over the top of the pan so the eggs will cook evenly.
COOK for 3-5 minutes, depending on how runny you like your yolks and how hot your stove is. You want the whites to be almost set when you take the pan off the heat. They’ll keep cooking in the hot sauce while you plate it up.
SERVE by spooning the eggs and sauce on top of the bread or by putting it in a bowl and serving the bread on the side for dipping. It’s not a make ahead dish by any means so serve it hot and don’t leave any leftovers.