Recently, I overheard my husband telling a friend how he enjoys having hens because they are pets that feed you. Honestly, I never really looked at it that way. For me, I wanted the added bonus of fresh manure for the garden, the eggs are just a bonus. Either way, we end up with plenty of eggs to eat and to share.
While I will use some when I bake, I almost always have many more than we need for just the two of us. As a result, we will have eggs for breakfast or dinner about once a week and while I love an over easy egg on potato hash or a fried egg sandwich, it can get a bit boring after a while. To keep it interesting, I look for ways to turn fresh eggs into a meal that is both satisfying and new to our table.
It was in my quest for something new that I found shakshuka, a Middle Eastern Dish that some attribute to Israel while others say Libya, Algeria or Morocco but it is actually a dish native to Tunisia. Traditionally, it is a spicy vegetable ragout or stew that is made mostly of tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic and spices simmered to thicken and to finish the dish, fresh eggs are cracked and poured into the stew. As the dish continues to simmer, the eggs slowly poach in the stew. Gentle basting of the eggs helps quicken the pace and adds flavor. While quite simple and easy to make, getting the eggs cooked so that the whites solidify and the yolks remain liquid is a bit challenging but well worth the effort.
To make this batch, I followed a recipe found on the website of David Lebovitz. Actually, I followed it almost exactly except that I added half of a diced red pepper and I used 2 serrano chiles, which added a lot more heat than we expected. Also, since I had greens in the garden, albeit slightly frozen from the snow and ice on the plants, but freshly picked. The recipe called for one cup chopped greens but I added more like two cups since I did not want to waste them. A generous sprinkle of feta chunks adds some saltiness and helps temper the heat of the chilis but be careful not to go overboard since this is not meant to be a cheesy dish.
As the stew was simmering, I cracked four fresh eggs from our hens and carefully added them to the pot. To make it easier on myself, I baked the stew to finish the eggs and you can too because the recipe explains both methods. Because David says to serve it with crusty bread to soak up the sauce, I heated several rounds to naan and we stuffed ourselves with the spicy, tomato-y sauce. Now that I know how to make this dish and cook the eggs to that perfect solid white and runny yolk state, I will be making this again-we certainly have enough eggs! And for those of you that do not have laying hens, pick up some fresh local eggs and make a batch of this stew; you will not regret this at all!