When putting together the Chicago Food Glossary, a number of people chimed in that I had forgotten to include the pepper and egg sandwich, which was apparently a staple at hot dog stands during Lent. Even though another commenter noted that he'd eaten them in Boston, thereby disqualifying the item as a unique Chicago dish, all the talk finally got me interested in a sandwich that I'd always considered humble and, well, kind of boring. Perhaps I was missing something.
Thing is, all the versions I'd tried featured overly soft and mushy peppers mixed with dry and overcooked eggs. So my main focus was to make sure each component got a little more attention. Instead of cooking the peppers over moderate heat until soft, I took a trick from fajitas and cooked them over high heat. This resulted in peppers and onions with a slight smoky char, along with some actual texture. As for the eggs, I wanted them to be creamy and soft, which meant I had to go in the opposite cooking direction—low and slow.
This turned out to be easier to accomplish than I'd imagined. The peppers and onions are cooked over high heat, and then the heat is reduced to medium-low before the eggs are gently cooked. I was genuinely happy with the result, and the only addition I could think of was a drizzle of hot sauce and ketchup.
- 4 sandwich rolls
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 6 eggs
- 2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- Hot sauce, ketchup, or other condiments as desired
Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap each roll in aluminum foil and set on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven to warm while preparing the rest of the meal.
Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until barely smoking. Add green and red bell peppers and onions. Cook, stirring often, until they start to blacken in spots and soften, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with a pinch of a salt. Reduce heat to medium low, and let the pan cool down for 1 minute.
While the pan is cooling, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until combined. Stir in the cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add garlic to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the eggs and let cook for 10 seconds before stirring. Continue stirring every ten seconds until eggs have set but are still relatively soft. Turn off the heat.
Carefully remove rolls from the oven. Slice each roll horizontally along one side, leaving the other long side still attached. Use your hands to remove some excess bread in the middle if necessary. Scoop some of the egg and pepper mixture in each roll.Top with condiments as desired and serve.