Tag Archives: kitchen skills

Arctic Blast 2019: Shakshuka

It is just past noon on the Martin Luther King holiday and the WeatherBug app on my iMac says it’s 21 degrees out. But the snow from last week is about 75~80% gone, so there’s that.

My quest for shakshuka was an unqualified success. It was good but not great. Chalk it up to it being my first time.

Operation:Shakshuka started around quarter after seven this morning, two and a half hours after my 0430 alarm went off. I spent forty-five minutes or so chopping and dicing four different peppers (red bell, green bell, chili cubano, jalapeño/poblano) and an onion. I chopped and diced them Gordon Ramsay style: three middle fingers on the pepper, thumb and pinky on the sides, slicing lengthwise. I spent some extra time fishing out and separating the seeds from the hotter peppers so I could save them for when I added the spices. This took me about 40~45 minutes.

At 0810 I fired up the newly-seasoned cast iron skillet and dumped enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan. First in were the onions, a close of minced garlic, and some mushrooms that I also sliced up. I cooked them for about 10~15 minutes, waiting for the onions to turn brown. I then added 1 1/2 inches of a tube of Jimmy Dean mild sausage, chopping them up in the pan with the onions and mushrooms. After my sausage was brown I added the diced peppers and let them all cook.

When the peppers were cooked enough, I added a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder, as much black peppers as I could grind out of the peppercorn grinder, and added some (not all) of the pepper seeds that I salvaged from the chopped peppers. After mixing in and cooking the spices, I finally added two cans of fire roasted tomatoes, including the water that they were packed in. I let this all cook at the medium heat that I had started with, for about twenty minutes.

As the mixture started to cook off, I worried that I might burn it, so I added about a quarter cup of water. Probably my first mistake, I should have let the water in the mix cook off. Anyway, I made divots in the mixture to dump in five eggs. I cracked each one in a ramekin first, so i could avoiding broken yolks or pieces of eggshell in the eggs before I put them in the sauce.

My second mistake was forgetting that cast iron skillets retain heat longer than other frying pans; thus my eggs would cook MUCH quicker than I had anticipated. The ancillary processes of making coffee and toasting my Texas toast were somewhat rushed, and by the time i remembered to turn off myself still cooking shakshuka, the egg whites were fairly set.

The shakshuka came out, as advertised. It was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and sure enough, my egg yolks were well done and not the over easy of a poached egg. Still with added sausage and the shakshuka atop a slice of pan-grilled Texas toast, then covered with quest blanco and Frank’s Hot sauce, I wolfed down 2 1/2 servings. There’s still enough of the shakshuka mixture that I could cook another couple of eggs for another meal, if I decide to put the remains in the fridge.

So what did I learn today?

  1. Need more spices and/or hotter peppers
  2. Better prep for coffee and bread (and get a sourdough loaf next time!)
  3. Cast iron skillets cook your eggs real fast

All that being said, my shakshuka will make some of the best leftovers I have had in a long time.

Okay, it’s nap time…


Song of the Day: The Jacksons, “Torture” and “State of Shock (w/Mick Jagger).” My mind tends to wander while I am on YouTube, so I’m not sure how I ended up looking for the songs from Michael Jackson’s reunion album with his brothers. These two were clearly the best of the album, and if the internet says so, Freddie Mercury was initially considered for “State of Shock.” But that Jagger fella…he worked out okay, I think.

Arctic Blast 2019: Seasoning

The so-called “arctic blast” never really showed up, although it was the usual cold and windy Pax River January day today.

Apparently there is this “football tournament on” this evening, but as my Bears were eliminated from the competition two weeks ago, I’m not really interested. Today I spent time preparing for tomorrow’s breakfast of shakshuka, which is a North African dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers and spices. Shakshuka is supposedly best cooked in a cast iron skillet; however, mine has been gently oxidizing in my lower cupboard for about eighteen months and it needed some love.

So today, rather than football, I seasoned my cast iron skillet.

After shopping for my ingredients for tomorrow’s shakshuka, I  put everything away except for my Brillo pads which I would need to clean my skillet. First I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Next I put a bath towel in the sink, so as not to scratch it while cleaning the skillet. I needed four Brillo pads to get rid of as much of the rust and dirt that covered the “gently used” skillet. I say gently used because I think I cooked one meal with it, washed it, then put it away. After seeing it turn a dark hunter’s orange, I put off using it for a while. I had heard of “seasoning’ cast iron skillets, but only gained confidence after watching a video from Martha Stewart.

After washing out the rust and completely drying it. I applied two coats of Crisco shortening all over the skillet: inside the pan and out on the bottom, plus the handles. Basically I covered every square inch of the pan with Crisco…twice. I put the skillet bottoms up on a baking pan lined with aluminum foil and put it in the oven to bake for two hours. I set it to back about 3:05, and it finished at 5:05. Martha said to take the pan out of the oven when it has cooled off, so I took a nap…and took it out of the oven at ten ’til nine.

My cast-iron skillet looks and feels a lot better than when I last put it away so long ago. Phase one of the shakshuka project is complete. Only thing is I couldn’t find any good French bread, so i will have to settle for good old Wax-Mart Texas Toast.

Thank you, Martha.

Song of the Day: I’ve been on a Beatles kick on YouTube for the last couple of days, but that’s kind of a cliche’. I know I’ve done SOTDs for Cream, so I reach into my CD collection and pull out…drum roll, please…

The GoGos! Everybody’s favorite 80s all-girl band! “Our Lips are Sealed” would be everybody’s go-to choice, but “Get Up and Go” and “Head Over Heels” showed they could really rock. “Turn to You” was a cute video…which YouTube does not have, not even on the GoGos official channel. Why?

Tomorrow: SHAKSHUKA!!! Shakshukashakshuka

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