eggs poached in grits, shakshuka-style

eggs poached in grits

Here are a few of my favorite breakfast things:

1) grits,
2) eggs poached in anything but water,
3) anything you can drown in hot sauce,
4) melty cheese, and
5) using as few pots and pans as possible.

So when I first thought to poach eggs in grits, I knew it would become my favorite breakfast food, but I didn’t anticipate how technically difficult it would be to come up with a reliable recipe. Here’s the problem: grits set up really quickly once they start to cool, and eggs don’t poach very well when they’re not surrounded by liquid. That’s why Shakshuka (the inspiration for this recipe) works so well—the eggs are totally surrounded by tomato, so they cook very efficiently, and the whites cook through by the time the yolks are runny or jammy. After trying a lot of different versions of this recipe, I finally concluded that there are three tricks to perfect eggs poached in grits:

eggs poached in grits
eggs poached in grits
eggs poached in grits

how to perfectly poach eggs in grits:

1) You have to add enough liquid to the grits in the first place. This is actually just good advice for making any kind of porridge (grits, oatmeal, gurdthu, etc.). By adding a bit more liquid, your grits won’t set too much once they’ve cooled down to hot but no longer literally boiling temperatures. I tested this recipe with Bob’s Red Mill grits (not an ad, these were just easily available), and if you use a different brand, you might need to add more or less water, depending. But even once you’ve added enough liquid, you still need to…

2) work quickly! Once the grits are nicely cooked through and thickened, but still liquid and bubbly, you need to add the eggs right away. Don’t stop to answer a text, don’t stop to take a photo (do as I say not as I do), and don’t dilly dally.

3) When you crack the eggs into the grits, you have to do it from the right height. I know this sounds like a bizarre little detail, but it makes a big difference. If you crack an egg from too low, it will mostly just sit on the surface, it will take forever to cook, and the yolk will harden by the time the whites are set. But if you crack the egg from about four inches above, it will cannon-ball into the grits, very adorably nestling in and cooking to perfection in a few minutes.

There’s a trick to making shakshuka with a thick tomato sauce, where you make little spoon marks to help the eggs nestle into the tomato sauce—I tried this trick a few times with grits, but they just don’t conduct heat well once they’ve started to set, so it’s best to follow the above guidelines for perfect eggs. With these tricks and the following recipe, it’s super easy to poach eggs in grits, and if you don’t believe me, this yolk porn will back me up:

eggs poached in grits

eggs poached in grits, shakshuka-style

yield: 4 servings
active time: 10 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
download a PDF to print

  • 3 1/4 cups water

  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half

  • 1 cup grits (not instant)

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese

  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives (plus more for serving)

  • Optional: hot sauce and more black pepper

  1. Bring the water to a simmer in a 10-inch cast iron skillet* over high heat. Then stir in the half-and-half, grits, salt, butter, and black pepper, reduce heat to low, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until it starts to thicken.**

  2. Once the grits start to thicken, drop in the eggs. And when I say drop, I mean drop—hold a cracked egg about 4 inches above the grits and let it cannon-ball into them. The eggs should not sit on top of the grits, but nestle in (see above photo and notes). Salt them to taste, sprinkle cheese around them, increase heat to medium-low, cover, and set a timer for 3 minutes. No peeking, and make sure the pan is very evenly heated, or some of the eggs will not cook through.

  3. Do not lift the lid during the first 3 minutes. After 3 minutes are up, inspect the eggs by gently poking the whites and yolks. If the whites are still clear, cover and look for another 2 minutes before checking again. If the whites are opaque and nearly set, remove from heat, and let them rest covered for about 3 minutes. A little bit of water might pool around the set whites (careful not to confuse this with uncooked egg whites). You know the whites are done when they feel firm, and the yolks are perfect when they’re still soft. ***

* You don’t have to use cast iron, but cook times vary depending on the material.
** This will depend on the kind of grits you’re using. I used Bob’s Red Mill to develop this recipe, which took about 20 minutes over low heat to thicken, and then a few more minutes to cook all the way with the eggs.
*** This part takes a little trial and error/practice. It’s hard to time this perfectly, and I find that switching between pans and stoves can really mess with the timing. But these are the results I was able to get consistently in my kitchen after lots of experimenting. If they turn out over or under-cooked the first time, but you want to try again, make sure you use the same pan and adjust the timing according to your results.

eggs poached in grits

okra stew | shirw'it bamiyeh

shirw'it bamiyeh

This post isn't here to convince the okra haters that really they should give it another chance. It's for the okra lovers, the ones who can't get enough "slime," who don't care if it is stewed, grilled, or pickled, as long as it's piled high. If you read the blog posts and articles with headlines like "how to cook okra so it's not slimy" (I even wrote one once!), it might seem like we're on a mission to convince the world to eat more okra, but the truth is, we love it so much that we don't care whether you do too. More for us!

This summer, my grandmother taught me how to make her okra stew (in Assyrian, shirw'it bamiyeh/bamieh), and I'm so happy to be sharing it. We're right at the beginning of okra season, so it's the perfect thing to make right now, but that shouldn't stop you if you're catching this post another time of the year, because we most often make it with frozen okra and canned tomatoes anyway. My grandmother is on a constant mission to hunt down certain frozen veggies to use in her stews, like flat beans for her riza shirw'it fasouliyeh, and (in this case) baby okra for her bamiyeh stew.

shirw'it bamiyeh
shirw'it bamiyeh

You might ask, why baby okra? Because when you simmer whole okra, instead of cutting it into bite-sized pieces, they get this wonderful chewy almost "Q" texture, which okra lovers will appreciate. There are plenty of incredible stews made with chopped okra, like gumbo for instance—chopping first thickens the broth and adds a ton of body and flavor to the finished dish. But this method is just another wonderful technique, which results in a slightly thinner broth and pleasantly chewy okra.

If you can't find baby okra, feel free to cook fully grown okra and then serve the stew with a knife and fork, on a plate over basmati rice. Either way, no one will complain. (I mean, yes, the okra haters will complain, but they're going to complain no matter what). If you're using fresh instead of frozen, make sure you prep them as listed in the recipe—it takes a few extra minutes, but is important for ending up with the right consistency. You can find frozen baby okra in most Middle Eastern markets, and lucky for us they're already prepped that way.

shirw'it bamiyeh

okra stew | shirw'it bamiyeh

yield: 6 to 8 servings
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
download a PDF to print

  • 2 pounds stew meat, in large chunks

  • 3 cups water

  • Salt

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed through a press

  • 26 ounce container diced tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 red bell pepper, medium diced

  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and pith removed, small diced

  • 28 ounces frozen baby okra, rinsed under cold water to melt away any frost *

  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving

  1. Rinse the meat (or skip the rinsing if you prefer). Place the meat in the bottom of a large saucepan, and cover it with the water and 3/4 teaspoon of salt (or to taste). Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover and reduce to medium-low. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Wipe down the sides of the pot once or twice while it cooks, and/or skim any scum that forms on the surface. Cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the meat is very tender.

  2. While you're waiting on the beef, place a large dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat and add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes, just until the onion softens and takes on a little golden color around the edges. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, just to take the raw edge off the garlic.

  3. Immediately add the diced tomatoes, black pepper, and salt to taste (my diced tomatoes didn't have much sodium, so I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt). Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, just to allow the flavors to meld.

  4. Add the red pepper, jalapeños, okra, and the braised beef with the braising liquid. Increase the heat to medium-high, stir everything together and wait for it to come to a simmer. Once bubbles break the surface, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 5 to 15 minutes, just until everything softens to your desired consistency. I like the veggies a little al dente, and not totally soft, so I usually do just 5 minutes, but my grandmother likes to cook them for the full 15. It's a preference thing, and you can even cook them longer if you want them really falling apart.

  5. Once the stew is done to your liking, add the lemon juice, and carefully fold everything together without mashing the okra.

* Baby okra is hard to find fresh, but you can find it frozen in some Middle Eastern markets. If you can't find baby okra, you can use regular-sized okra, but read the notes above the recipe if you want to know why you should leave them whole instead of cutting them into smaller pieces. If you're using frozen baby okra, it should already be prepped, but if you're using fresh, you'll need to stem and pare them. Here's how: cut the tough part of the stem off, but leave the tender part of the stem intact (you should definitely not see the inside of the okra). Then use a paring knife to shave away the bumpy ridge where the stem meets the body (check out this very helpful photo from my friend Tony’s instagram stories if you’d like a visual).

shirw'it bamiyeh