Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory - Blue Monday

What do you have for dinner after a day of hiking in paradise? Ever the contrarian, I settled on a dish called Uova in Purgatorio, or Eggs in Purgatory. This remarkably versatile Neopolitan dish is the poor man's version of Eggs Benedict. It consists of eggs that are "poached" or baked in a spicy tomato sauce and then spooned over a base that is limited only by the imagination of the cook. I was particularly unadventurous tonight and served ours on thick crusty slices of Portuguese bread. Giada De Larentis has a version of the eggs that she serves on mashed potato cake. It sounds wonderful and I'm sure it's delicious, but this is one of my go-to meals for days where the clock has run out and we have yet to eat. The potatoes would edge the dish into a category more substantial that I wanted to deal with. I'll admit it. I settled, but in doing so I kept the focus of the dish of a wonderful puttanesca sauce and perfectly poached or baked eggs. The eggs absorbed the flavor of the sauce as they cook, so what would seem to be a bland choice for a meal actually becomes something that can excite the palate. While I love this dish made with puttanesca sauce, any good tomato sauce, even the kind that comes in a jar, can be used without compromising your results. This, by the way, is a wonderful choice for a brunch. It can be assembled the night before it's needed and baked off just before serving. Here's a recipe that would make even Dante happy.

Eggs in Purgatory


Puttanesca Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 heaping tablespoon anchovy paste or 1 tablespoon minced canned anchovies

1 can (28-oz) crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup fresh minced parsley

4 - 8 whole eggs

4 - 8 thickly sliced peasant bread

Optional: 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


1) To make Puttanesca sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic, pepper flakes and anchovies to pan and cook just until garlic is fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add capers, olives and parsley and heat to warm through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer sauce to a baking pan large enough to hold whatever number of eggs you are using. Crack eggs onto surface of sauce, keeping the eggs yolks intact. Whites may overlap but that's fine. Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes, until whites are set and yolks are still a bit runny. Add bread to oven about five minutes before eggs finish cooking. Serve eggs over toast and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese. Drizzlw with olive oil and serve hot. Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

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