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Smitten Kitchen’s baked ranchero eggs; it’s what’s for dinner

Sometimes an easy dinner isn’t dinner at all – it’s breakfast.

I love serving eggs for a fast, filling meal and it is also a great way to bust out of a dinner rut. I usually default to quiche because it gives you the flexibility to use up ingredients already in the house. Frittata is great, too, especially for those trying to steer clear of the extra calories (or the gluten) in crust.

However, I wanted to add something new to the rotation. When I saw the recipe for baked ranchero eggs in “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” by Deb Perelman, I knew I would be making it for dinner soon. If huevos rancheros are on the menu at a restaurant, my husband always orders them – so I knew he would appreciate testing the recipe.

This meal delivers big-time flavor for pretty minimal effort. The black beans add a punch of protein and fiber to the dish. Dial back the cheese in the topping if you prefer. Add some avocado for a nice looking garnish and some heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

If you’re trying to trim the time or the steps needed to get this dish on the table, use tortilla chips instead of making the baked tortilla strips.

A dish packed with a dozen eggs is too much for our family to eat at one meal and this recipe is not easily reheated without overcooking the eggs. If that is also true at your house, the recipe can be easily halved or quartered. Perelman also suggests preparing the ranchero sauce and just heating as much as you need for a meal. Top the warmed sauce with eggs and then follow the remaining steps for topping and broiling the cheese. Garnish with lime crema, tortilla strips and cilantro before serving.

Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese and Lime Crema

Adapted from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” by Deb Perelman

For the ranchero sauce:

1 jalapeño, or to taste

1 28-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes

1 medium white onion, roughly chopped

1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 1/4 cups cooked black beans, drained

For the tortilla strips:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 small corn tortillas

Salt, to taste

12 large eggs

1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded jack cheese

For the crema:

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream

For garnish:

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

To make the ranchero sauce, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Quarter and seed the jalapeño, if desired, and toss into a blender. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and several pinches of salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Pour into a 12-inch oven proof skillet, add the black beans and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced slightly.

Meanwhile, make the tortilla strips. Brush a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cut the tortillas into 1/2-inch wide strips and arrange them on the oiled tray. Brush the tops of the strips with the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 3 to 6 minutes, or until they are brown and crisp.

Make the crema by stirring together the lime juice, crema and a pinch of salt.

Once the sauce has thickened slightly, remove the pan from the heat and break the eggs across the surface of the sauce, distributing them as evenly as possible. Return to heat, cover the pan and simmer eggs gently in sauce for 10-12 minutes, or until the whites are nearly but not completely opaque. Sprinkle surface of the tomato and egg mixture with the cheese and broil until the cheese is bubbly and a bit blistered – just a few minutes. Garnish with dollops of lime crema, broken pieces of tortilla strips and cilantro.

Yield: 6 servings