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Creamy Eggs with Tomato and Peppers, Basque Style
(recipe, Janet Fletcher)
A specialty from France's Basque region, pipérade ranks among the world's tastiest egg dishes. To make it, a tradition-minded cook will sauté some onions and bell peppers until soft and sweet, then add a generous amount of chopped fresh tomato. Once the tomatoes have collapsed into a sauce, beaten eggs are added and cooked slowly, slowly until the mixture thickens into a creamy mass. Toast is a must.
If you can find piment d'Espelette (see Note), the moderately spicy ground red pepper from the Basque region, your pipérade will have an authentic taste. Serve it in small portions as a first course or in larger portions for supper.
- 3 oz. slab bacon or pancetta, cut into slices about ⅓-inch thick
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 medium bell peppers of different colors, halved, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1½ cups grated plum (Roma-type) tomatoes
- Large pinch of hot red pepper flakes
- 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Piment d'Espelette (see Note), Spanish paprika, or freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh Italian parsley
- Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces. Put them in a 12-inch cold skillet with the olive oil and set over moderately low heat. Cook, turning with tongs, until the pieces are crisp and nicely colored all over, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, and thyme to the skillet and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the vegetables are fork-tender, about 5 minutes longer. Uncover and add the tomato, hot pepper flakes, and another pinch of salt. Raise the heat to moderately high. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the tomato collapses into a sauce, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed if the mixture threatens to scorch.
- Reduce the heat to low to moderately low. Add the eggs, then stir constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, frequently scraping the bottom and sides of the skillet. Continue cooking slowly until the eggs begin to thicken the mixture, about 4 minutes. Stir in the bacon and continue stirring until the mixture is creamy and custardlike, 1 to 2 minutes longer. You are not trying to make scrambled eggs. Taste for salt.
- Dived among warmed individual plates, and top each serving with some piment d'Espelette and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.
Piment d'Espelette is available by mail-order from Kalustyan's.