Twelve grapes at midnight. Black eyed peas. Flutes of champagne, clinking and bubbling. The spread for New Year’s Eve is one we all know. We want drinks that sparkle and food that will bring us luck in the new year. But what about the morning after? We should be thoughtful about the first meal of the new year, too.
Nothing too ambitious. Or sweet. I don’t mean that in a resolution-sort-of way but by this point you don’t really want another cookie. You want a meal. Something savory. And on January 1? Something that doesn’t ask too much of us, please. It’s the first day of the year, we watched the ball drop not too many hours earlier, and I think I still have glitter and confetti in my hair.
The answer is shakshuka. This quick stew of tomatoes with slivers of onion and bell pepper has North African origins, though almost all the ingredients will be familiar and are probably already in your kitchen. Once the spicy sauce is simmering, eggs are dropped into indentations made in the tomatoes and they poach in the juices. Eggs bring this dish into breakfast territory, but I’d eat this any time of day.
Harissa, the hot sauce of North Africa, is a paste made of hot peppers, oil, and spices. This condiment has as many variations as shakshuka itself, and I use 2 tablespoons in my version. You can halve that amount if you don’t want it too spicy. If you can’t find harissa at the store, you’ll find many recipes online for making your own or paprika can stand in as a substitute.
Each serving can be cooked individually in small skillets, but I find it easier to prepare the shakshuka in one large skillet and transfer each serving to a bowl or ramekin when it’s done. The sauce can be made a day ahead and gently reheated before poaching the eggs the day you’re ready to serve. Either way, you can’t really mess this up. Just keep the egg yolk runny and serve with plenty of crusty bread.
I don’t know if shakshuka will bring you luck in the new year, but it will certainly bring satisfaction. It’s a dish to keep in the rotation all year.
Shakshuka is a North African dish with many variations, which means this recipe is forgiving and you can feel free to tweak it to your liking. Perfect for whenever you wake up on New Year’s Day, this dish uses mostly basic ingredients and reheats well. Harissa, the hot sauce of North Africa, can be reduced to 1 tablespoon if you don’t want the dish to be too spicy. Serve in a shallow bowl with plenty of crusty bread.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers (yellow, orange, or red), sliced into long and thin strips
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons harissa (or 1 tablespoon smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup parsley, chopped, divided
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (leave most of the cheese in large chunks)
4 to 6 eggs
crusty bread, for serving
Bring a large skillet to medium-high heat, add oil, and saute onions, stirring frequently until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the sliced bell pepper, bay leaves, thyme, harissa, tomato paste, and cumin. Toss to coat everything in the spices and cook for a few minutes until the bell pepper softens a bit.
Add diced tomatoes (with the juices from the can). Add a big pinch each of salt and pepper along with half of the parsley, too. Bring to a simmer; turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, giving the flavors enough time to meld. At this point, it should look somewhat like tomato sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Drop the crumbled cheese into the mixture.
Use a large spoon to create wells in the sauce for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the wells. Cover the skillet and let the eggs cook until just set (you want a runny egg) and warmed through, about 8 minutes.
Take the skillet off the heat and sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley. Let sit for a few minutes before transferring each serving to a shallow bowl or ramekin. Serve with bread.
Serves 4 to 5.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi.