I admit it. I'm a real sucker for Mexican-style or Tex-Mex brunch items. It must be my Texas upbringing, but to me the ideal morning would start with some huevos rancheros or migas, preferably with a side of refried beans and a light, fruity agua fresca (like my watermelon basil chile one) to drink. Ever since I heard about shakshuka, a Middle Eastern/North African dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomato, onion, chili and spices, I just knew that I would have to make a Mexican-style shakshuka sometime. In Israel, shakshuka is apparently such a popular dish that it's eaten at all times of day and is said to be a strong contender for the country's most loved dish. So I figured that it could only be better Mexican-style, with the tastes of cumin and smoky chili incorporated into the sauce.
I opted to use ancho chilies, which are basically dried poblanos. Anchos, as well as pasilla and guajillo chilies, are always on my list whenever I go to the States, as these types of dried chilies certainly can't be found here in Thailand. I love anchos for their sweet and smoky flavor, which is exactly the taste that I wanted in the sauce for my shakshuka. If you can't find anchos, you can substitute another type of dried Mexican chili or even a smoky chili powder, in a pinch. Make this during the weekend or another lazy day, as it does take a bit of time. It would be the perfect main course for a Mexican-style Christmas brunch as well. Enjoy!
Serves 2-4 (depending how hungry people are)
2 dried ancho chilies, stems (tops) removed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
4 large eggs
Crumbled cotija or feta cheese
Chopped fresh coriander, for garnish
A few dollops of salsa verde (green salsa), for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C.
2. Place the chilies in a medium-sized bowl and cover with boiling water. Weigh them down with a spoon. Let them soak for 15-20 minutes or until softened.
3. In the meanwhile, warm the oil in a large nonstick or cast iron pan (make sure that you opt for an ovenproof pan). Add the onion and saute for a couple of minutes, followed by garlic. Saute until translucent.
4. Add the tomato sauce and cumin powder. Stir well. Once the tomato sauce starts to simmer and bubble, add the chilies (whole). Reserve the water used for soaking them.
5. Cook for about 2 minutes and then transfer to a blender, along with 1/2 cup of the reserved chili soaking water. Liquefy into a nice, smooth sauce.
6. Return the sauce to the pan, along with an additional 1/2 cup of the reserved chili soaking water. Stir well and warm over medium heat. Add salt and sugar to taste and continue to stir.
7. Make 4 wells in the sauce and gently crack an egg into each well. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs just begin to start setting.
8. Cover the handle of the pan with some aluminum foil and transfer to the top rack of the oven. Bake until the egg whites are just set, which will only take a couple of minutes. The yellows can remain runny, or if you prefer them to be a bit more set (like me), bake for just a little bit more time.
9. Sprinkle in cotija or feta cheese and serve garnished with coriander and some dollops of salsa verde, if you wish. Serve with warmed tortillas (corn or flour, as per your preference).