I spend a solid portion of the first half of December debating what to make for Christmas brunch. The pressure is purely intrinsic; my family would happily eat anything that I pulled together. In this case, the challenge is finding something that will impress the best cook I have ever met – my mother! Her dishes are creative, home-grown, and absolutely delicious. So, I spend my time pinning recipes and perusing Instagram (PSA: Scrolling through photos with “#brunch” is a fantastic way to develop insatiable hunger).
Even with all of my research, I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to make more than shakshouka. I enjoyed this Middle Eastern dish for the first time at Oven & Tap, a relatively new Bentonville restaurant that I can’t recommend enough. Their rotating menu featured shakshouka last time we had brunch there, and I had to order it after seeing so much buzz about this egg-topped wonder all over the internet. Also – it is the most fun food word to say out loud (second place: challah), so it’s a pleasure to order. Their version is perfect. It’s traditional, spicy, and comforting. Their version:
Instead of trying to replicate the original, I went a different direction. I added pork sausage and roasted butternut squash to my version. I also served my shakshouka on a bed of creamy sharp cheddar and garlic grits.
The dish was a hit – thank goodness – and our Christmas was perfect. We tried to encourage Mops to get into the holiday spirit, but it didn’t really work out. Maybe next year. She did, however, receive a holiday card with her likeness. Fan mail?
Although we could not quite get Mops to sing Christmas carols this year, we managed to carry on with the festivities ourselves. One of our Christmas traditions is probably more accurately described as a Christmas mandate. My sister requires a quiche on Christmas morning. Despite my plans to dazzle my family with brunch, I maintained the peace with a bacon, broccoli, and portobello mushroom quiche. We had the quiche as “breakfast”. The shakshouka was “brunch.” Semantics.
I’ve been referring to this breakfast all week as “Love Shack”-shouka, in homage to the B-52s. I’ve even been singing modified lyrics. My husband doesn’t think it is nearly as funny the fifteenth time. I still can’t figure out why he was ready to go back to work after the four-day weekend
trapped alone with me.
Shakshouka with Sausage + Roasted Butternut
Serves 6 to 8
You will need:
- 1 pound pork sausage
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
- 2 habanero peppers, finely chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 28-ounce cans low sodium diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons each sea salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 to 2 cups fresh heirloom tomatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces*
- 6 to 8 eggs (one per serving)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3 to 4 ripe avocados (half of an avocado per serving)
*I recommend using a colorful blend of small-sized (cherry tomato size) heirloom tomatoes – yellows, oranges, purples, greens, etc. – to add color contrast to the dish.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss diced butternut squash in two tablespoons of olive oil with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place the squash on a baking sheet (spread out in a single layer). Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until squash is golden brown in places. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside.
- While the squash is cooking, brown the sausage in a skillet. Break up any clumps that form with a wooden spoon. When fully cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or other large, deep skillet, heat oil to medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and peppers and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
- Add canned tomatoes, lemon juice, chicken broth, and spices. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in butternut squash, sausage, and fresh tomato chunks. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Crack the eggs on top of the sauce, then cover and cook until whites are set and yolks are slightly runny, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Serve hot with parsley, feta, and avocado.