Although sometimes eaten mid-afternoon, often by people who stayed up well past bedtime the night before, brunch is meant to be a late-morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch. Caught squarely between two more established meals, brunch is in a state of uncertainty, a purgatory if you will.
This is one of the reasons eggs in purgatory make an ideal brunch order, although you won’t always find them on the menu. The other, and perhaps most important, reason eggs in purgatory are a great brunch order is the combination of perfectly runny eggs, spicy tomato sauce, and crispy egg yolk-friendly toast that make this dish a surefire hangover cure for those who drank too heavily the night before. .
Named after him because the eggs in the middle of the dish are surrounded by a spicy red tomato sauce seasoned with red chili peppers, the dish originated in Italy, the birthplace of the famous poet and divine comedy (which includes the section Purgatory) author Dante Alighieri.
Although a native of Texas PJ Calapachef and owner of Langoustines in the Flatiron district of New York, never had eggs in purgatory (called uova al purgatorio in Italian) in Dante’s homeland, his take on the brunch banger fully embraces the traditionally spicy feelings of the dish.
“The reason it’s called purgatory is the heat. Many dishes in Italy are called “for the devil” in reference to the level of spice. Tome, purgatory means it’s not as spicy as the devil, but it’s on the way,” Calpa told InsideHook. “It’s an easy way to describe something spicy without saying it’s spicy. You hope people know about it, otherwise they will find out.
A veteran of Eleven Madison Park and Nobu Fifty Seven, Calapa’s eggs in purgatorio depend on Calabrian chili peppers for heat.
“We make a Calabrian chilli paste. It’s not so hot that you sweat, but we want you to know there’s a bit of heat there,” he says. “The homemade tomato sauce is kind of the star of the dish. We cook the eggs directly in it. But we take the flavors of a pasta we serve in the evening, a pork shoulder ravioli made with dried pancetta, and serve it with a big piece of toast on the side. It’s a simple and hearty brunch dish with a little spice, fresh and delicious.
And, like Dante divine comedyCalapa eggs in the purgatorio contain multiple levels.
“The eggs are beautiful and rich. The whites set and the yolks remain runny. You almost get a creaminess from the eggs without using dairy, and there’s a nice high acidity in the tomatoes,” he says. “You get different textural contrasts with the crispy pancetta, baked eggs, runny yolks and lovely bubbling tomato sauce. It just makes you want to dip a piece of bread into it all. There’s a reason you love it. You don’t know why, but your tongue doesn’t lie.
Use the following Calapa recipe to see if it’s telling the truth – and possibly burn your tongue.
Chef PJ Calapa’s Eggs at Purgatorio
- 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
- ½ cup onion, finely diced
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 bunch basil, torn
- ¼ pound pancetta, cut into bacon bits
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian peppers, chopped
- 1 tablespoon pecorino cheese, grated
- 2 large pieces of toasted bread
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sweat the onions and garlic in olive oil until opaque
- Crush the tomatoes by hand and add them to the mixture of onions and garlic
- Add half the basil and reduce by 30%
- Render the pancetta until crispy and put in asia
- Remove the tomato sauce and set aside
- In a baking dish, add 1.5 cups of tomato sauce
- Also add the Calabrian chiles, pancetta and reserve basil, stir and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Carefully crack the eggs into the dish and cook until the whites are set, about 10 minutes at 350F
- Broil tomato put to finish fixing the whites
- Toast your bread
- Grate the cheese over it and enjoy.
This article was published in the InsideHook NY newsletter. Register now to learn more about the five boroughs.