eggs in purgatory – tomatillo edition

We had our good friends M & M over for brunch this past weekend. Well, it started with brunch at our place and then sprawled out into the evening time too, which was amazing. They are some of the best people.

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Lemon rosemary cream scones

I tired a new recipe for our brunch, a variant on eggs in purgatory. Eggs in purgatory is an Italian dish of eggs cooked in a tomato sauce. The sauce is usually kicky and bright, infused with umami and spicy heat. The eggs are soft, with the whites barely set, and the yolk creamy and golden and runny. You top it with cheese and eat it with toasty bread and it’s just one of the best things.

When I was thinking about brunch dishes to prepare, it came to the forefront because it’s easy to put together, and you can do a good amount of advanced prep, so that when you have company over, you’re not in the kitchen trying to fry up individual over-easy eggs.

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Roasted purple potatoes. Look how purple!

I found this Mexican-inspired variation on Food & Wine. It replaces the tomato with bright acidic tomatillos that you cook with smoky bacon and handfuls of cilantro. The heat comes from chiles. I served it with tortilla chips instead of bread, alongside roasted baby purple potatoes and lemon rosemary cream scones. It was a huge hit, so now I’m sharing it with you as well.

(I did not get a good photo of this dish, partially because I forgot, and partially because it’s hard to get a good pic of eggs in sauce when you aren’t serving them in adorable individual cast iron pans (which is how I’ve seen eggs in purgatory photographed all over the internet). So…shrug. It’s still delicious, much more so than the pic indicates.)

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Mexican-inspired eggs in purgatory (it’s hard to take a good pic of this dish)

Mexican Eggs in Purgatory, adapted from Grace Parisi via Food & Wine

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and cleaned
  • 1 poblano or jalepeno
    • I used 1 poblano and 3 serranos, leaving seeds and pith for more heat.
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro leaves and stems
    • I’m pretty generous with herbs, so more like 2 cups… at least.
  • 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • Probably I used more than this, but I didn’t measure, as per usual
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • Upped this to 3
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Cotija cheese or crumbled feta, plus more for garnish
  • I also cleaned and diced up a leek, and used one small yellow onion.

Preheat the oven to 400F. (You can also use the broiler if you want.) While it’s getting hot, halve the tomatillos, destem the chiles, and slice the onion in half. Place on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, then roast until the edges are a little charred. In a food processor, puree the tomatillos, chiles, onion, cilantro, and chicken broth until it’s a smooth sauce. [The roasting of the veg is a thing I opted to do and not in the original instructions. But I like the flavor of roasted tomatillos and a slight char on the onion. I made this bit the night before.]

Cook bacon in a skillet until bacon is browned and crispy, 4-6 minutes depending on how high your heat and how crowded the pan (try not to have it too crowded). Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant; be careful not to let it burn. Add leek and cook until soft and slightly translucent. Then pour in the tomatillo puree and cook until the sauce is thick and dull green, about 10 minutes. Taste, and then add salt/pepper as needed.

Remove the pan from heat. If you want to serve this in a casserole dish, transfer the sauce to the dish now. Otherwise, if your skillet is oven-safe, you can leave it all in the skillet.

Make 8 depressions in the tomatillo sauce with the back of a spoon, and then crack an egg into each being careful to keep the yolk intact. [I just crack them directly into the divots, but some people have found more success by cracking all the eggs into a measuring cup and then carefully pouring them one by one into place.] Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.

Bake in the oven until the egg whites are just set and the yolks are still runny. Eggs take a variable amount of time in the oven, longer than you would think, about 10-15 minutes depending on your oven. If you’re using the broiler, it’ll likely be quicker — more like 4-5 minutes. Don’t worry if the yolk is slightly runnier than you’d like; there is a fair amount of carryover cooking once you remove them from the oven, so they will set up a little.

[The casserole dish I used was a tad small for this, so that’s why there’s a layer of cooked egg white in that picture and you can’t see the green sauce. When I do this again, I’ll use a larger pan so that the divisions between each egg are more distinct.]

Garnish with diced scallions and more cheese. Serve — probably in bowls — with toasty bread, warm tortillas, or tortilla chips.

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