Friday, October 16, 2015

Braised Eggs with Beef, Smoked Eggplant, and Tomato

So I have a culinary bucket list.  It's about a mile long and changes/grows constantly.  

I know, #firstworldproblems.

No matter how many iterations of the list I might have, one thing never changes--the fact that Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi's Ottolenghi and Rick Bayless' Topolobampo are tops on my list.  I've given up on deciding which one gets top billing because I just can't decide.  There's so much to love about all three chefs from the way they stay true to themselves, their commitment to authentic and interesting ingredients, their work ethic, and their social consciousness, among so many other qualities.  

But experiencing these chefs' talents at their flagship restaurants would require trips to London and Chicago, respectively.  With no such trips currently planned, I had to take matters into my own hands and cook for myself sing one of Tamimi and Ottolenghi's recipes.  As usual, I was not disappointed.

I'm a huge fan of eggplant and with its season coming to an end, I knew it was time to make one of their many eggplant (Or aubergine, as they would say--don't you love that?!?) dishes.  While browsing recipes, I came across this one and I knew my search had ended.  I love their Shakshuka recipe and this seemed to be, in a roundabout way, a kind of ramped up version.  Plus, it gave me the chance to roast an eggplant on my gas stove.  As someone who grew up primarily with electric appliances, this is very, very exciting.  You guys, I get to put food directly on the fire.  Right. on. it.  It's pretty great. 

My goodness was this delicious.  The eggplant was silky and rich and gave the whole dish the fire-roasted flavor I love.  The spices were warm and pungent and very, very present.  With a perfectly-braised egg complete with a runny yolk and lemony, nutty tahini, this dish was a complete and total knockout.  If I can create something so outstanding from their recipe, I can't wait until the day I get to experience this kind of food straight from the Ottolenghi kitchen.



Rich, smoky eggplant combines with tomato, garlic, onion, beef, and spices to create a silky base for perfectly cooked eggs, complete with runny yolks.  With garnishes of nutty tahini, bright sumac and parsley, and a luxurious drizzle of olive oil, this dish was everything I was hoping for.

Braised Eggs with Beef, Smoked Eggplant, and Tomato
from Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi via their website
(some ingredient amounts converted from metric measurements)

Ingredients:
4 small eggplants (about 2.5 lbs. total)
3 TBSP tahini
2 TBSP lemon juice
7 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 TBSP water
1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. chile flakes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 to 3/4 lb. ground beef (depending on preference)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. finely chopped preserved lemon (If you can't find preserved lemon, you may use a fresh, minced lemon slice, rind and all.)
4 eggs
3/4 tsp. sumac
1 TBSP chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife in a few places and place directly over an open stovetop flame.  Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, turning a few times with metal tongs until the outside is completely burnt and the eggplant begins to collapse on itself.  Alternately, set your oven's broiler on high and place the pierced eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil for approximately an hour, turning every 20 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the heat, cut a single slit from top to bottom, and place in a colander to allow the juices to drain.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop the soft, roasted flesh from the eggplant, taking care to stay clear of the skin.  Set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce by mixing together the tahini, lemon juice, water, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  If the sauce is too stiff, add more water until it reaches a thick, rich consistency.

3.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, chile flakes, cinnamon, cumin, and tomato paste.  Sauté until onions soften a bit and gain some color, about 6 minutes.  Add the beef, 1 tsp salt, and black pepper, to taste, and brown well, 5-6 minutes.

4.  Mix in the tomatoes, preserved lemon, and roasted eggplant flesh cook for 5 minutes.  Add up to 1/4 c. water if the sauce is too thick (I added about 2 TBSP).  

5.  Reduce the heat to low and make four small wells in the mix and break an egg into each.  Cook the eggs until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes.  (You may qicken the process by covering the pan, but the yolks will look cloudy.)

6.  Remove from the heat, dot with dollops of tahini sauce, sprinkle with sumac, and finish with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings
     

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