We had a “Moonstruck” breakfast Saturday morning — a dish I saw in that 1987 Norman Jewison romantic comedy.
You fry some bread, break an egg in the center and pair it with a sliver of stewed tomato. I’ve since learned there are as many versions of this combination as there are Sicilian grandmothers. Some, made with spicy tomato sauce instead of plain tomato, are colorfully termed Eggs in Purgatory.
“Moonstruck” powerfully conveys the atmosphere (accents, architecture and, of course, food) of an Italian American neighborhood in New York with Nick Cage as a half-crazy, opera-loving baker and Cher as the widow who’s engaged to his estranged brother. (The only thing that doesn’t work in this movie is that Cher is supposed to be homely at the beginning of the film. Cher cannot be homely.)
That one tiny flaw aside, I love every moment of “Moonstruck.”
Nick Cage’s stoop speech: “Love don’t make things nice. It ruins (“roooons”) everything. It breaks your heart. . . . ”
Olympia Dukakis’ immortal lines: “Do you love him, Loretta?” “Yeah, Ma, I love him awful.” “That’s too bad.” Her unanswerable response to the randy college professor: “You can’t come in because I know who I am.” Her equally unanswerable memento mori to her philandering husband (played by the late, great Vincent Gardenia). “Cosmo?,” she says in the most matter-of-fact of tones, “I just want you to know no matter what you do, you’re gonna die. Just like everyone else.” “Thank you, Rose,” says Cosmo. “You’re welcome,” says Rose.
If you haven’t seen the film, I’m not going to explain this exchange. Go Netflix it. Hell, buy it, if you trust my judgment.
Back to breakfast: This egg thing has become a standard whenever I have some Italian bread to use up.
I’d bought a loaf of Ba Le’s rustic garlic and cheese bread Friday so I could make some tasty croutons for a Caesar salad. So, when we awoke to a rare Saturday when neither of us had to work, I decided to make my version of the dish that Rose is making when Loretta comes home from spending the night with her fiance’s brother.
Fried bread alla “Moonstruck”: Using a smallish cookie cutter, incise a hole in the center of a piece of country-style Italian bread. Over medium heat, heat a butter and olive oil in a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan. Drop the “puka bread” into the fat and fry until golden. Turn bread. Drop an egg into the hole. Spinkle with salt and pepper and, if you’ve got it, minced parsley or aromatic herbs. Drop a dollop of tomato paste on top of the egg. Put a little water in a lid that fits the pan and cook until the egg yolk is covered in filmy white. Lift with a spatula onto a warm plate and cover liberally with finely grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Other versions: Skip the puka. After frying one side of the bread, spread the other side with pesto, tomato jam or marmalade or leftover spaghetti sauce or top with a thick slice of a very ripe tomato, grilled or fried. Fry the egg separately and put it on top of the “dressed” fried bread. Sprinkle with grated Parm.
Or, for Eggs in Purgatory, heat oil and butter. Break two eggs into a small, single-serving frying pan. Combine Italian bread crumbs half and half with spaghetti or other tomato sauce, preferably herbed or spicy sauce; spoon thickly around eggs. Cover and cook over medium heat until eggs are baked to desired doneness. Serve topped with grated Parm. This might also be baked.
A tip: While we’re thinking about cast iron frying pans, here’s a care idea. You know you’re never supposed to wash a properly seasoned cast iron pan with soap; it’ll strip the oil off and promote rust. All you need to do is rinse it with warm water, wipe it out with a paper towel. Wipe again with neutral oil (good quality vegetable oil such as canola or grapeseed but not olive oil, which contains solids that tend to go rancid). But what if something’s stuck to the pan? Whenever I have some clean aluminum foil left over, I crumple it up and throw it into a drawer. Then I use it as a scouring pad for the pan; works wonderfully!
BTW, it was a great breakfast weekend all-around:
This morning, I made oatmeal biscuits and they were delish. Check out Barbara Chornoboy’s recipe at allrecipes.com. I followed it pretty closely (it’s very basic) but used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose, threw in some flax seeds and reduced the brown sugar a bit.