Pipérade

60 Comments

My mother could cook just about anything. I never realized she was so talented until I was older, of course. And it wasn’t always about what she learned from cookbooks, there were also the recipes she just knew instinctively. It’s sort of like why French women are all talented cooks. Why is that?!!

For example, I remember once as a kid asking my mother if she’d make me peach dumplings. She made them, no recipe, and they were incredible. I’d have to look up a recipe for peach dumplings, and I’ve been cooking for 40+ years.

Thirty-five years ago my husband and I took my mother out to a French restaurant when she was visiting us in Houston, Texas. It didn’t go so well, mostly because of the flying cockroach. She ordered Oeufs à la Neige for dessert and disliked it. “I’ll make it for you and you’ll see what it’s supposed to taste like.”

The next day at our house, she made Oeufs à la Neige without a recipe, and it was better than the restaurant’s. When I made it for this blog, I used a recipe.

The other day I was thinking about breakfasts growing up. Let me just say that there was no cold cereal at my house. Maybe when I was 11 I discovered my friends ate Cocoa Krispies and Cocoa Puffs at their houses, and I was a bit jealous. But I also knew that my breakfasts were wonderful. Even a humble bowl of oatmeal was served with butter and cream.

My mother was a whiz at eggs. She had chickens, so we had beautiful eggs – blue, green, beige, and white eggs. Even duck eggs.

Occasionally my mother would make an omelet-like pipérade. I grew up never knowing it was a real recipe, but it is, originating from the Basque corner of France (thanks, Google.) Mom was from the Northeastern corner of France, so she must have discovered this recipe in a cookbook along the way.

What makes this egg dish somewhat different from your basic omelet choices are the vegetables and ham, and no cheese. Here I will try to duplicate her recipe.

Piperade

6 eggs, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 ounces butter
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 ripe Roma-style tomatoes, chopped, seeded, or equivalent
1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces Prosciutto, chiffonaded
Chopped parsley
Chopped basil

Beat the eggs and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the green pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. It should be soft and not browned.

Stir in the shallots and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes, preventing any browning.

Add the tomatoes, adjust the heat if necessary, and cook off any liquid in the pan.

Add the piment and stir into the tomato mixture. Set the pan aside.

In a separate skillet, I used my cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat, and when hot, gently “sear” the ham. Remove from the skillet onto paper towels.

Reheat the same skillet over medium-low heat; you shouldn’t have to add more oil. Add the eggs, and gently move the eggs around and away from the sides with a spatula as if you’re making scrambled eggs.

Remove from the heat when the eggs are still soft, and spread the tomato mixture over the top. Then add the ham, parsley, and basil.

It was really tempting to not also serve crème fraiche with the pipérade.

But I added more piment and black pepper.

In reality there’s nothing exceptional about these eggs, but the dish is fabulous for breakfast, lunch, or brunch.

Just look at these soft eggs and all of the lovely vegetables and herbs.

60 thoughts on “Pipérade

    • That’s why we all follow food blogs, right?!! There’s always something more to learn about! This is good, hope you get to try it.

  1. Perfect for any meal in our house. I particularly like your use of the Espelette pepper. It should give the dish some depth and a nice punch in the finish. Lovely images and instructions as usual. You’re fortunate to have memories of great home cooked meal from your youth. Swanson TV dinners was about my mom’s limit. That’s what got me a cooking…

    • We’re probably of similar age, and I remember learning about frozen meals in the 60’s. They came about ironically, during the women’s lib time, so I think a lot of wives and moms quit cooking, because they could. Terrible stuff. At least back then. So smart of you to learn how to cook!

  2. How fabulous to have a mother who could whip up anything on the spur of the moment. Mine was great at traditional English food, but don’t get me started on her spag bol!

  3. Glad to read about your mother’s virtue ! My grandmother used to make most of the food by heart too and we enjoyed the meals very much ! Thank you for the lovely story :-)

  4. Like yours, my mom was an amazing cook who never used recipes. :-) To this day I’m inspired by how she just whipped things up. This recipe sounds so delicious! I’d have it for any meal of the day! I love that the prosciutto is cut into a chiffonade – that’s so pretty.

  5. lovely memories of your mother while you were growing up Mimi. I often make Piperade ( probably because I also keep chickens) and make it without ham. Your photos are looking very tempting Mimi.

  6. I know of Piperade but have never knowingly made it. But yours looks so inviting that I will have to soon.
    How wonderful that you still have your Mother to talk to even if she doesn’t cook anymore. She laid a good foundation in you with your lovely recipes.

    • I think the best thing she did was to expose us to many ingredients from various cuisines. And we were always encouraged to try everything. I didn’t really learn to cook from her, because she didn’t want anyone in the kitchen, but when I started cooking I was familiar with many ingredients and foods, including “exotic” ones! Thank you!

  7. I slavishly followed recipes, especially from Julia Childs and Elizabeth David when, around 50 years ago, I had aspirations to be a cordon bleu cook. Now I almost never follow them though I often look to food bloggers like you for inspiration to serve ‘something different’. The one exception is Stephane (you know who I mean) and I make one of his simplest, prawns flamed in Ricard, following him to the letter although I don’t need his blog as the recipe is firmly imprinted in my head.
    I make a kind of piperade regularly but as neither I nor my wife like the kind of cooked tomatoes involved it’s a bit different.
    I wouldn’t say my mother was an excellent cook, but a very good basic English cook whose stew and dumplings were a delight to come home to after a trek from school through deep snow. And I still make scrambled eggs, I say the best in the world (but many would not agree) exactly as she taught me.

  8. Very interesting. I started cooking regularly when I married in 1982. My books were the Time Life Foods of the World Series that my mother, of course, had given me. These days, it’s hard to follow a recipe, even if I want to, but that’s the beauty of being a home cook. I would not have done well in cooking school! I really appreciate your compliment, and yes, I know Stephane well. His simple roasted chicken with olives blew me away!!!

  9. I love hearing about your mother – she sounds just wonderful. And you and I have something in common (Well, probably lots of things!) – I never had a cold breakfast until I went to college! Mom made us a hot breakfast every day… I remember her horror when my older brothers started drinking Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink!

  10. To be a good cook you need to be willing to learn from everyone, to have great taste (which is a gift) and to have the ability to think like a child. I think that’s why so many cooks are so heavily influenced by a parent who cooks. In your case (and mine) a mother… GREG

    • The only problem was that she was so intense about cooking that she never let us in the kitchen. We’d just get yelled at. So I could have learned more but she didn’t have that type of personality. But I did get to taste food, and that helped me out when i started cooking.

  11. Yes, the French do have a way with eggs- I learned how to make those very creamy French scrambled eggs- who would have thought you could do something slightly different with scrambled eggs?

    • It’s a lovely recipe, Fran. And yes, it’s not an omelet exactly. And it’s rare I eat an egg dish without cheese!

  12. Sounds like your mom was absolutely amazing! I’ve never heard of this dish before. But shallots, garlic, tomatoes, Prosciutto, basil … it sounds perfect for summer!

    • I remember as a kid I dislike chewing on parsley, but now I adore parsley, and yes, all of the ingredients work beautifully together.

    • Thanks, Stefan. She’s 90 now, and doesn’t cook anymore. She lives alone, so that doesn’t help.

  13. My Mom was the same way, although not from France and I think it’s something the older generation did a lot more easily than us, cooking w/o a recipe. I know I’d love these – my Mom made a Basque Chicken she got from the Gallopiing Gourmet and it was always a family favorite.

  14. You’re mother sounds like a really skilled lady, Mimi! I grew up around my mom who was always in the kitchen, too. She liked to bake by ‘feel’ but she also had piles and piles of recipes that she had pulled out of magazines and such. I remember her saying one time that once you get good, you can tell a good recipe just by looking at it. I thought that was crazy, but now I understand what she meant. And I can say that this piperade recipe is a good one! :-)

    • Thank you. It is good. You definitely can tell what a recipe will become by looking at it! Never really thought about it.

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