Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chorizo and Egg Piperade

I had every intention of posting a recipe in honor of Cinco de Mayo this week but as they say, best laid plans sometimes go bust. The nexus for this change was spending the day with my childhood best friend on Saturday. Yes, this sounds a little like I am blaming her when in actuality I should be really be thanking her. By late mid-morning we had been to the French Market, to a grocery store to pick up some fresh chorizo, and to the Container Store to pick up some baskets all before heading back to my house for lunch. It was barely noon and we had enjoyed a glass of wine while I made lunch, sat down to eat what turned out to be an amazing dish, and enjoyed a glass of moonshine.  Yes, moonshine (such recklessness on a Saturday afternoon). However, before I go any further, I need to be on record saying that neither the wine nor the moonshine nor our state of hunger influenced our opinion of the Chorizo and Egg Piperade we ate for lunch. Without a doubt this was a dish worthy of being placed on my last meal list, a list reserved for those foods where it would be a mortal, yes mortal, sin to leave this earth without having its' flavors eternally lingering on your palate. 


One bite of this dish and I knew I needed to share it with you sooner rather than later. Showing restraint for my enthusiasm has never been one of my personality traits. Besides I am pretty certain there will be more than enough Cinco de Mayo recipes posted on food blogs this week.


Before making this recipe I had never eaten a Piperade so I was a little curious as to its' origin. I discovered piperade is geographically attributed to Basque Country, an area located in the western Pyrenees spanning the borders between France and Spain on the Atlantic Coast (having never traveled to Basque Country might explain my culinary cluelessness here). A piperade is often made of sautéed onions, green peppers and tomatoes, with garlic, eggs or ham sometimes added. So, if one uses a Spanish chorizo in the making of a piperade would it be fair to say such a version has more of a Spanish than French influence? To answer that question correctly I guess I need to get out a little more.


Before I moved to the east coast, I thought there was only kind of chorizo, that being Mexican chorizo. I quickly learned from all of my Portuguese friends there were actually two kinds: the Spanish or Portuguese Chorizo and the Mexican Chorizo. And they could not be more different from one another. The Spanish/Portuguese version of this sausage gets its distinctive smokiness and deep red color from dried smoked red peppers (pimenton) while the flavor of the Mexican version comes from the use of native chili peppers. Think of the Spanish/Portuguese chorizo as smoky sublime and the Mexican chorizo as smoky hot.

The Spanish/Portuguese Chorizo comes fresh or dried. The recipe inspiring this piperade called for the use of either the fresh or dried types. I don't know what the dried version would taste like, I only know the fresh version (isn't fresh almost always best?) of the Spanish Chorizo is what added to the phenomenalness (forgive me if this not a word) of this piperade.

Three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil are heated over medium heat in large skillet. Once heated, a half-pound of fresh Spanish Chorizo sausage (removed from its casing and crumbled) is added and cooked until the sausage is browned and beginning to crisp (about 8 to 10 minutes of cooking time). Note: If you are going to use the skillet as your serving dish, do not use a non-stick skillet when beginning the cooking process as not all non-stick skillets can endure high oven temperatures.

Two red bell peppers sliced, three cloves of garlic minced and one medium or two small yellow onions sliced make up the vegetable trinity in this piperade.


After the chorizo has browned, the peppers, garlic and onions are immediately added. Stirring frequently, the vegetables are cooked until softened and slightly browned. Cooking time is approximately 18-20 minutes.  Remember to season with some Kosher salt to taste before going any further.

You have a decision to make once the chorizo and vegetables are cooked. The mixture can be equally divided into 4 or 6 baking dishes/ramekins, can be transferred to another baking dish or left in the skillet. Your choice of cooking/serving container will be influenced by your serving presentation. My vote is for serving a more rustic looking, in the skillet piperade.


Depending on the size of your skillet or serving dish, you will need anywhere between 6 and 8 large eggs.


If baking the eggs in the pan, make as many indentations in the sausage/vegetable mixture as needed for the number of eggs you will be cracking into them. For the size skillet I used, 6 large eggs fit perfectly.


The eggs are baked in a preheated 400 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes or until the eggs have just set. If you don't like your egg yolks a little on the runny side, your baking time might be a minute or two longer. Before serving, season with a little Kosher or sea salt. 

I made this dish for lunch, but it would also be for great for breakfast, brunch or dinner. Regardless of which meal you decide to make the Chorizo and Egg Piperade for, serving it with a freshly sliced baguette or toast will both complete and compliment it. 

Recipe
Chorizo and Egg Piperade (Inspired by the Piperade recipe created by Jody Williams from Buvette)

Ingredients
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound fresh Spanish chorizo (sausage), casings removed and crumbled
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced (or use a combination of red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers)
1 medium or 2 small yellow onions, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 to 8 large eggs
Kosher salt and/or sea salt
Fresh sliced baguette or toast for serving

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add crumbled Spanish chorizo sausage and cook until browned and slightly crispy (about 10 minutes).
3. Add peppers, onions and garlic. Stirring frequently, cook until vegetables are softened and lightly browned. Season with Kosher salt. (Cooking time approximately 18-20 minutes).
4. Remove from heat, create 6 to 8 indentations in mixture. Crack a large egg into each indentation.
5. Place skillet in oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes or until eggs have just set.
6. Season with Kosher or sea salt and serve with a sliced baguette or toast.
Note: The sausage and vegetable mixture can be transferred to 4 or 6 small baking dishes/ramekins or to another casserole dish before adding the egg(s) instead of finishing the baking in the skillet.

On Saturday I was reminded why spontaneity can be so much fun. There is much to be said for the exhilaration you feel when you don't put time limits around spending time with a friend, when you don't have the day all planned out, or even when you try something or go somewhere new. Somedays we can get so caught up in having to get everything done on the to do list (there will always be a to do do list) we sometimes cannot see the forest through the trees.

An unplanned drive through the backroads or taking the longer, more scenic route drive back home can turn an ordinary excursion into an extraordinary one. Having a longer more leisurely lunch instead of checking our watches to see how much time has passed can redefine what it means to spend quality time with a friend. The loss of sleep from staying up late or getting up early to bake some cookies to bring to a friend is more than made up for when you see the surprised smile on their face. Oh, just think of things we miss out on when we live by the self-imposed 'I am too busy' time limits we place on ourselves. Those best laid plans you had for the day.....sometimes you just need to let them go.

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