The REAL Shakshuka

Thank you everyone for the kind words regarding my recent misfortune. You know what else? My sister got robbed today too – in a completely different part of town. She stepped out to see a movie (she has a newborn and it was the first time she actually had some time for herself). When she got back 2 hours later, her place had been ransacked – the diamond tennis bracelet I bought her for her wedding had been stolen along with other Jewelry. I got off relatively easy but today was not a banner day for the ck clan.

Anyhow, here’s a proper shakshuka recipe, the way my Mom Brakha makes it. So forget perfect measurements – be prepared to fly by the seat of your pants….

First, proper shakshuka is a pain in the ass to make, so if you’re going to make it, make a bunch. Take whatever’s extra and freeze it – it keeps really well in an airtight container. Now, I start off with a 4 quart saucepan, something like this. Shoshi loved shakshuka, so she would start off with an 8 quart saucepan. Whatever the case may be, fill it up 3/4 full with whole canned tomatoes – not diced, not pureed but whole. Pretentious cooks will tell you to start with fresh tomatoes, but that’s crap. This is peasant food, leave your pretentions at the door – you’re going to cook these babies to within an inch of their lives, no need to bother with fancy shmancy fresh tomatoes – unless of course tomatoes are cheap and in season. Then just dip them in boiling water to remove the skin. A standard 4 quart saucepan would require like 5-6 cans of tomatoes, or 15-20 fresh tomatoes to fill 3/4 of the way.

You need to drain most of the liquid from the tomatoes or else you’ll be cooking forever – watery shakshuka sucks, so don’t forget to drain! Once the drained tomatoes are in the saucepan, wash your hands and then squish all the tomatoes so that you are left with a pot full of uneven tomato chunks. The uneveness is what gives it its modest charm. Again, try to drain most, but not all of the excess liquid.

Now get a whole mess of fresh garlic cloves – remember the cardinal rule – there is no such thing as too much garlic. 2 whole cloves per quart ought to be fine. Peel the cloves and slice them into chunks. Don’t be a smart ass and try to use your garlic press – remember, chunks of garlic, not crushed garlic. And do not get anything other than fresh garlic – none of that stupid pre-peeled marinated garlic in Brakha’s kitchen…. Throw the garlic into the pot.

Hot! Anaheim PepperNext we need to add roasted peppers. See the pepper pictured here? I don’t know what kind it is – probably an Anaheim Pepper, but that’s the kind you ought to get and it’s commonly sold everywhere. If you’re a little wuss you may be tempted to substitute this pepper with green bell peppers. Don’t. Anyhow, you need about 1.5 peppers per quart so for a 4 quart saucepan, use 6 peppers. Place the peppers on a medium fire (electric elements works too) and turn it around untill it has flattened and lost its form, and the outside skin is darkened. Take the peppers and put them in a paper bag for like 20-30 minutes. Remove from the bag and carefully peel off what’s left of the outer skin. The bag thing makes this tedious process a little easier. Use a good German paring knife for best results.

Once the skin is peeled, scrape away as many of the seeds and stems as necessary. The seeds and stems are what make the shakshuka hot and too many will overwhelm the delicate shakshuka yumminess, not enough and your shakshuka will be boring. Cut the peppers into strips 3/4 of an inch long and half an inch(ish) wide. Dump all the peppers into the pot.

Now add some olive oil. Remember, the shakshuka has to be shiny so be generous, but don’t go overboard. Do not bother with cold pressed extra virgin overpriced bullshit Spanish Italian olive oil – it would be wasted here. Finally, add salt and sweet paprika to taste and start cooking. Keep the fire at a medium heat and cook for several hours until most of the remaining liquid is gone. Don’t let it boil too much because it will splatter and make a mess. Brakha hates a mess. Some folks add the olive oil. salt and paprika at the end – I do it both at the beginning and tweak it at the end.

Now you have the shakshuka base. We call it Salade Cuite (cooked salad). You take this enormous salade cuite and eat it with yummy challah during shabat. Cover the pot and refrigerate when not being eaten. Come Sunday morning, take what’s left and freeze some of it for later. Now, with what remains (still in the original pot it was made in, drop in a mess of eggs. Make sure not to break the yolk! Let the pot simmer under medium heat until the yolks start to lose a bit of their color and whiten at the edges. I like my shakshuka yolk a little runny but how runny is up to you – definitely do not overcook it. That’s yucky and boring. Once cooked, put the pot on the table and serve for brunch.

The whole shabbat thing is important because shakshuka is better if the salade cuite base is one or two days old. In that respect it ages well. Please note, one does not add pepper to salade cuite although you may add pepper to your shakshuka egg if you insist. Also note – no onions are used in this recipe. NO ONIONS!

That’s it. Brakha’s most excellent monster salade cuite. Enjoy, let me know how it turned out.

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