Sometimes when you’re in the middle of reviewing papers (and writing notes for yourself so that you actually remember what you were thinking at two in the morning) you look up at the clock and realize you completely missed dinner. Not only that, but the highlights of your pantry include half a jar of tomato sauce, the end of a loaf of sandwich bread, and a couple eggs.
It is at times like these that I like to pull out the simplest “recipe” I know that happens to be one of the most delicious: poaching eggs in a sauce and serving it over crusty bread. The beauty of poaching eggs is that you can leave it be to cook for a few minutes while you go pour yourself some wine and catch up on worrisome texts from your mom.
When eggs cook, the egg whites transform from an almost clear gel to a stark white solid. The concept behind this is PROTEIN DENATURATION!
Protein denaturation is a fairly simple concept, and once I understood it, a ton of things in the food world clicked instantly. Protein denaturation (referred to as PD from now on) occurs when linkages between the protein structures are broken. The building blocks of the proteins, amino acids, also unfold and cause other effects. In this case, the heat from a boiling sauce scrambles the egg proteins (especially the egg whites as the majority of an egg white is protein). Once the proteins are broken up, they start to spread out and push water out of the egg increasing the consistency (this is called sweeping volume which always makes me think of a prom dress). Then, they form new bonds with other proteins to form a gel. That is why cooked eggs are so much more solid than uncooked eggs. I like to think about it with a hand analogy.
Picture that your fist is a protein structure. When you coax your fist to unfold, stretch it into a jazz hand. The jazz hand is now free to interact with a whole other hand, for example. Just don’t let it heat for too long, otherwise your egg gel will get too strong and turn rubbery. That’s pretty much all there is to it!
^^^Before and after breaking the yolks! Mmmmm. Also, I couldn’t resist using my Chick bowl for the egg reference
This post has a great recipe for a summer tomato sauce, but I really do love to use it like I described above. Just heat up a nice jarred sauce before simmering your eggs in it for a really fast meal or even a snack. Add some fresh ingredients like basil or onion and convince everyone you made it in a snap! This is often the less expensive route especially in the winter when fresh produce is not as readily available.
Eggs in Summer Tomato Sauce
Adapted from William’s-Sonoma
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 yellow onion, cut into thirds
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 pound tomatoes, halved (seeded if desired)
a pinch of oregano
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a glug red wine (dry preferred)
salt and pepper to taste
2 pieces crusty bread (if desired)
grated parmesan cheese (if desired)
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low, cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove and discard the onion. Purée the tomatoes and garlic. I used an immersion blender, but a standing blender or food processor works well too.
2. Return the purée to the saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. If you have watery tomatoes, increase the time until the desired consistency is reached. Add the cayenne pepper, oregano, and remaining butter; stir to incorporate. Add a glug of wine and simmer for a couple more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chopped basil or other inclusions can be added at this time as well depending on personal preference.
3. Reduce heat to low. Crack two eggs in the sauce and cover. Simmer on low until the whites are no longer translucent but the yolk is still jiggly, about 5 minutes.
4. To serve, spoon egg and sauce over a piece of crusty bread, toasted if desired, or just eat it like a soup. Garnish with parmesan cheese to add some extra flavor.
5. If you are making this for yourself (or if you and your guest can’t finish it by yourselves…like that would happen), you can save the leftover sauce in the fridge up to 2 weeks or in the freezer up to 6 months. Enjoy!
^^^I know it’s only early September, but it is time to get ready for Halloween! One of my favorite holidays!