Eggs and Tomatoes is a simple main dish from the good women of Arcadia, Wisconsin ca. 1962. Nestled among a variety of chicken casseroles and chop suey recipes, this recipe is something of an outlier. No meat. No condensed soup. And a keen-eyed observer might recognize this dish looks an awful lot like shakshuka, a North African brunch staple. Needless to say this seems out of place for mid-century fare in rural Wisconsin. Outside of a few traditional European recipes and Americanized Chinese casseroles, Our Favorite Recipes isn’t exactly a treasure trove of what we might call ‘ethnic food’.
For the uninitiated, shakshuka is eggs poached in a rich, warmly spiced tomato sauce. I first encountered shaksuka in a hotel restaurant in Tel Aviv. It was not a particularly fancy hotel, nor was the restaurant anything special, but the variety of foods available in their breakfast buffet was overwhelming. There was the standard European and American breakfast options, for the travelers, plus a variety of Mediterranean olives, with hummus and bread. Fresh figs and fresh dates were served with honey and local cheeses. And about every ten minutes or so the kitchen would bring out a baking dish of shakshuka, although I didn’t know what to call it at the time. All I knew is that if you blinked you missed it – the whole pan was gobbled up in a few minutes. When I finally got a taste I was hooked, and had a happy helping of shakshuka every morning for the rest of my stay.
Now Eggs and Tomatoes isn’t shakshuka, and while I have no way of knowing for sure, it’s unlikely that the recipe’s author knew even the first thing about North African cuisine. If she did, she has taken plenty of liberties to Americanize it. The tomato sauce in traditional shakshuka is usually filled with onions and garlic and all sorts of Mediterranean spices; the sauce in Eggs and Tomatoes is more along the lines of homemade tomato soup. That’s not to say it’s not delicious, but Eggs and Tomatoes is a better match for American breakfast food than hummus and pita.
And while my family prefers traditional shakshuka, this recipe still gets a hearty thumbs up. Serve Eggs and Tomatoes with good quality sourdough bread and a couple of Italian sausages. This would also pair well with grilled cheese sandwiches. If you’re after a traditional shakshuka recipe the version I cook at home is based on the New York Times’ recipe (although I always skip the feta).
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, celery salt, and pepper until well mixed, but don't brown the roux.
- Open the can of tomatoes and, using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the whole tomatoes into small pieces while still in the can. Add the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce to the roux and stir until combined. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of a medium size casserole dish. Make ten little wells in the sauce and crack the eggs into them, being careful to preserve the yolk. Gently spoon the remaining sauce over the top to cover the eggs. Shred cream cheese over the top (see note).
- Bake for 20 minutes or until egg yolks reach desired consistency. (25 minutes gives almost hard-cooked eggs)
I was skeptical when I saw “shredded cream cheese” in the original recipe. It’s not a typo – it works just fine with both a hand grater and a box grater and looks a lot like shredded mozzarella. If I have to do it in the future I will probably freeze the cream cheese to make it a little bit easier to shred, but this worked just fine.