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
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  • 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, and reduce heat to medium. Let it come back up to a simmer, then 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 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 cook 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. ***

  4. Garnish with chives, hot sauce, and black pepper and serve immediately.

* 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

kuku sabzi inspired frittata

late summer frittata

While my immediate family is not from Iran, many Assyrians are, and the food that Iranian Assyrians make is really different from the food we Iraqi/Syrian Assyrians make. So this frittata is inspired by the fabulous recipes my Iranian friends have shared with me, specifically kuku sabzi, a springtime dish served for the Persian new year.

But even though our cuisines are quite different, the thing I love about kuku sabzi is actually the same thing I love about much of my own family's food—herbs are used with stunning generosity. Instead of sprinkling leafy herbs as a garnish or subtle flavoring, we treat them as a substantial ingredient. So if you look at my mom's kebabs, my grandmother's dolma, everyone's favorite fattoush, or just about any good tabbouleh recipe (even the slightly bulgur-heavy ones), you'll notice that the herbs make up quite a bit of the dish's substance.

late summer frittata
late summer frittata

So while this is totally not real kuku sabzi (I've taken some liberties, and it's not exactly springtime in the northern hemisphere right now), it was strongly influenced by the classic. It's a nice frittata for avid home gardeners, who are likely trying to figure out what to do with the last of their zucchini and tomatoes right about now, but it's just as much a frittata for non-gardening tiny apartment dwellers like me. All the ingredients can easily be found in supermarkets just about everywhere.

But if you are one of those home gardeners swimming in tomatoes and zucchini (or someone who just stumbled upon a crazy deal at the farmer's market), this is a great recipe to prep for the colder days ahead. Quality herbs are available year-round, as are the rest of the ingredients, and you can do the zucchini and tomato part ahead and freeze it. When stored properly, grated zucchini keeps really well in the freezer, and you can easily strain after thawing (you won't need to salt it to draw out the water). Frozen slow-roast tomatoes are fabulous to have on hand year-round, and I add them to just about everything. You could totally just use sun-dried tomatoes instead (I've made this recipe both ways), but slow roasting in-season tomatoes make this frittata a little extra wonderful.

late summer frittata
late summer frittata

kuku sabzi inspired frittata

serves: 3 to 6
active time: 15 minutes
total time: 40 minutes
try my
date frittata for another Persian frittata
download a PDF to print

  • 1 cup grated zucchini *

  • salt

  • olive oil

  • 1/2 of 1 small/medium onion, small-diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press

  • 3/4 teaspoons baharat (or 1/4 teaspoon each paprika, black pepper, ground coriander)

  • 1/2 cup packed minced parsley

  • 1/2 cup packed minced cilantro

  • 1/4 cup packed minced dill

  • 1/4 cup minced sultanas or golden raisins

  • 1/2 cup grated mild, hard cheese (like cheddar)

  • 1/4 cup slow roast tomatoes (or substitute chopped sun-dried tomatoes)

  • 6 large eggs, beaten

  1. Combine the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and let them sit together for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take handfuls of the zucchini and wring them out, discarding the liquid (you'll end up with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup wrung-out zucchini).

  2. Place a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron 10-inch skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, followed by the onion, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until it's softened and slightly golden around the edges. Add the garlic and baharat and cook stirring constantly for 1 more minute. Remove to a mixing bowl. Coat the skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and keep it over low heat for a couple minutes while you mix together the ingredients.

  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the wrung-out zucchini, cooked onion mixture, parsley, cilantro, dill, sultanas, cheese, tomatoes, eggs, and salt to taste (I use 1/2 teaspoon). It will look like there is very little egg, and that's ok.

  4. Preheat the broiler. Swirl the oil, and then pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet and increase the heat to medium. Cook without stirring for about 3 to 5 minutes on the stove, just until the bottom sets a bit, and it starts to smell a little toasty. Once the bottom is done, move it to the broiler and cook until the whole thing is set and golden brown on top (depending on your broiler, this could take between 30 seconds to 5 minutes).

* This is about 1/2 of 1 small zucchini. If you have leftover grated zucchini, save it for zucchini bread, double this recipe, or freeze it for later.

late summer frittata