I have family friends who host a yearly, big breakfast/brunch (complete with mimosas and bloody marys) before tromping out raucously into the cold to find the perfect tree and bring it home. I wanted to bring that tradition into our life this year, but it was not meant to be. We squeezed in getting the Christmas tree just before Ben dropped me off at IAD to catch a flight to Ghana for work. Just 24 hours later, these grey, winter morning pictures seem pretty outlandish—it’s 90 degrees and humid here, and my hotel room overlooks the pool bar where there’s a live steel drum band playing.This “eggs in purgatory” recipe is one that Louise and I got from those same family friends. It’s a classic Italian recipe with a wry name (inevitably leading everyone at brunch to wonder why it’s not “eggs in hell” (uova al infierno?!) because of the fiery red sauce), and easy to cook for a crowd. In the straight-up version you essentially poach the eggs in the tomato sauce; my adapted version calls for a thicker ragu and fistfuls of chopped parsley instead of a garnish of basil. I made it for Ben and I before we headed out to our neighborhood Christmas tree farm.While we didn’t have the collection of friends and family I wanted, we did have the mimosas (heavy on the bubbly, please!), and we found a gorgeous tree, so that’s something. Happy holidays, all, I’ll see you in a week.p.s. Any Ghana recommendations? Most of my work has been in southern / East Africa so this is uncharted territory for me. I have a full day in Accra on Saturday. I know you’re very well-traveled, so let’s hear it.
Eggs in purgatory (Uova al purgatorio)
- 1 loaf thick country-style bread, sliced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 ounces canned, peeled whole tomatoes and their liquid (or blanched, peeled whole tomatoes)
- 8 ounces canned tomato purée
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- A handful of flat-leaf Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- Parmigiano or asiago, shaved
- Toast the bread and set aside, covering with a clean dish towel. It’s okay if it cools a bit.
- In a thick-bottomed, oven-proof pan or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent and aromatic, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to brown.
- Add both the whole tomatoes and the tomato purée, stirring and using a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer, allowing excess liquid to boil off and the sauce to thicken, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Is the sauce too acidic, too sweet? Adjust as needed—sometimes it needs a pinch of brown sugar, a splash of red wine vinegar, or a dash of red pepper flakes.
- Keeping the sauce at a low simmer, start the broiler on high. Using the back of your wooden spoon, make small wells in the sauce and gently crack one egg into the well. The sauce should still be on the stovetop simmering, so the eggs should start cooking immediately. When all the eggs are situated in the sauce, turn off the range and slide the pan under the broiler.
- Broil, keeping a close eye on the eggs, until the whites are set and yolks have reached the desired doneness.
- Place slices of bread on plates, and scoop eggs and sauce on top. Sprinkle liberally with parsley and top with cheese. Serve immediately with more black pepper.