Comfort Food

Sometimes, shit happens.

Sometimes, Murphy’s Law applies.

Sometimes, you call it quits at 4pm and decide to spend the rest of your evening drinking wine and cooking comfort food, losing yourself in savory sauces and fruity undertones for a few hours. If that happens to be the case for you, I would highly recommend this braised beef brisket and eggplant shakshuka, paired with homemade rolls. A little honey butter wouldn’t hurt either.

First, with whatever motivation to venture outdoors is left to you, gather these ingredients:

For the shakshuka,

  • 1lb beef brisket, cubed
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1-2 eggplants (aubergines) totaling 1.5 lbs
  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, with peel* (or use 2 tsp preserved lemons)
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 eggs
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • sugar

For the dinner rolls,

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package dry active yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt* (I omitted the salt to make the rolls sweeter)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter, and then some

For good measure, pick up a bottle of wine. Zinfandel, Syrah, your favorite red. Surprise me.

Next comes the low, slow build up of anticipation.

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot, then sear the beef on all sides. (I used a paella pan, not the best for braising – a stock pot would be better – but it allowed me to use one pan from start to shakshuka finish.)
  • Pour in the stock and let simmer over low heat for 2 hours, until fork tender and falling apart.
  • Meanwhile, score the eggplant on all sides and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

While the beef and eggplant cook, prep your mise-en-place.

  • Chop your tomatoes and set aside
  • Chop your onion and garlic, combine with the spices and set aside
  • If you don’t have preserved lemons (a speciality ingredient in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes, not available at Whole Foods), saute the lemon slices in olive oil with a little salt and sugar. Add a splash of water if the juices become thick and sticky. When the peel is soft, remove from heat, let cool, then dice and add to the tomatoes.
  • Wash anything that might be hanging around the kitchen

By now the eggplant should be done. Remove from the oven and let cool.

As the eggplant cools, prepare the dough for your rolls.

  • Sift together 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt (if using)
  • In a microwave safe bowl, combine water, milk, and butter. Heat until butter is melted and mixture is about 120 deg F
  • Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing well for several minutes
  • 1/4 cup at a time, add flour to the dough, combining well before continuing. Add flour until the dough holds together nicely and is not too sticky.
  • Knead for 5-8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Cover and let rise 10 minutes.
  • Divide dough into 12 balls and arrange in a greased 8in round pan.
  • Cover and let rise an additional 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 deg F

(I actually just forgot the salt when making my dough, but the rolls turned out soft and sweet, a great balance with the spicy, tangy flavors in the shakshuka, so let’s chalk that up as a win. It’s the little things, right?)

When you leave the dough to its second rise (there’s a bad Jesus pun here, I’m sure of it), the eggplant should be cool. Scoop out the flesh and add to the tomatoes. Set aside.

If you’ve hit the 2 hour mark, transfer the beef and remaining juices to a separate plate and shred with a fork. (Try not to eat all that delicious, tender meat in the process. You probably won’t succeed, but it’s the thought that counts.)

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2 hours of simmering in broth over low heat

Add a little olive oil to the empty pan, over low heat, then add the onion and spices. Cook 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft and the spices are toasted. Scrape the pan occasionally to incorporate the leftover beef fat and browned bits. That’s where all the good stuff is.

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Can you smell the toasted red pepper flakes and cumin with a hint of cinnamon? No? Well, I assure you it smelled amazing.

While the onions cook, put the rolls in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes

When the onions are ready, add the shredded beef, reserved broth, and tomato paste. Stir to combine before adding the tomatoes and eggplant. Cover and let everything cook down over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes fall apart.

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Finally, make 6 small wells in the beef/tomato/eggplant mixture. Crack an egg into each well. Cover the pan and let cook for 5-8 minutes until the eggs are soft but not runny. Right around when you add the eggs to the pan, your rolls should be ready to take out of the oven.

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Serve the shakshuka warm, with fresh bread to mop up the sauce. Maybe pour a glass of wine. Maybe put on your favorite easy listening Pandora station. Or have a gallon of milk and rock out to some EDM during dinner. Who am I to judge?

You do you, beautiful.

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Shakshuka recipe adapted from here.

Rolls recipe adapted from here.

 

 

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