It was just a  few hours ago that I wrote that I rarely follow recipes. Here is one of those rare occasions.

I just got the latest issue of Saveur magazine and skimming through, I saw a photograph of eggs poached in tomato soup.

My heart skipped a beat. I seriously love eggs served in slightly unorthodox ways.  Over pastas, in soups, atop a burger… People all over the world eat eggs at any meal. Here, they’re relegated to breakfast with a warning about not eating too many of them. Bah. Humbug. Eggs are one of the best foods a body can eat.  A barely-firm white with a silken runny yolk… gastronomic heaven. And the closer to the chicken that you can get them – the better they are.

The soup in question is from the Alentejo region of Portugal. It’s south-central Portugal with a varied landscape – from beaches to rolling plains to granite hills.

This is rustic food at its finest – and my favorite form of food. I would really rather eat the basic foods of the locals than the latest Michelin-starred dish-of-the-moment. These are foods steeped in history and refined over the years. Their flavor belies their simplicity. And it’s interesting watching how the flavors are layered – from bacon to chouriço to onions, garlic, tomato…  Everything built upon what was done before.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, but traditionally, a toasted slab of bread would be placed in the bowl, egg placed on it, and then soup ladled over all. I opted for a sliced baguette on the side that I used to wipe the bowl clean.

Sopa de Tomate

  • ½ lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into ½” pieces
  • ¼ lb. cured Portuguese chouriço sausage, cut into ¼” cubes
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes, seeded and crushed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 eggs, per person

Heat bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a bowl; set aside. Add sausage to pan; cook until browned, 4–5 minutes, then using a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with bacon. Drain and discard all but 3 tbsp. fat from pan and add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized, 10–12 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes more. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until soup is slightly thickened, about 1 hour. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Purée soup with an immersion blender until smooth; transfer to a 14″ high-sided skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Working with 1 egg at a time, crack eggs into a small bowl and carefully slide into soup. Using a spoon, baste eggs with soup, until whites are firm and yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Place eggs in bowls and ladle soup over the top. Garnish with reserved bacon and sausage.

Nonna had manicotti. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be one of her favorites so I described the dish to her and then gave her another option – she took the other option. I have a few items in the freezer now that I can pull out for her when I want to cook something that may be a bit over-the-top for her.  I’m learning.

I think this may be resurrected this winter. I can see this simmering on the stove with snow falling outside…

And maybe I’ll look for a recipe for a traditional Portuguese Pão Alentejano…