A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 21, 2007
Ox Eyes (Ojos de Buey) or Eggs in Hell (Eggs in Purgatory)

Tex-Mex recipes call for a little heat applied to the normal breakfast dish of eggs. One popular dish is huevos rancheros.

The dish of “Ox Eyes” ("Ojos de Buey” or “eggs in chile") is also called “Eggs in Hell” or “Eggs in Purgatory.” The Tex-Mex “ox eyes” dish is not to be confused with the “ox eyes” dish of the 19th century (recipes below), that featured egg “eyes” cut into bread. “Eggs in Hell” is cited in print from at least 1951. One comment (below) claims that “ox eyes” is simply the same as “huevos rancheros,” only hotter.

Crescents Eggs In Hell
Recipe Preparation Instructions :
In oil saute onion, green pepper and garlic. While they soften, stir in tomatoes and their juice (break the tomatoes up a bit), tomato paste, basil, oregano, rosemary, bay leaf and honey. Simmer sauce for about 10 minutes, then make indentations in it with a spoon and break into it 4-6 eggs. Spoon sauce around and cover them, pop on a cover, and let the whole thing simmer gently until the eggs are poached; the whites should be medium firm, the yolks still runny. Lift each egg out with a spatula onto a serving plate in which you’ve placed a bed of cooked spaghetti or a thick slice of toasted french bread or a bed of hot, steaming rice, or a tortilla if you want it Mexican-style. Spoon extra sauce around each egg and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Recipe Origin: The origin of the recipe “ Crescents Eggs In Hell “ is unknown.

Wikipedia: Huevos rancheros
Huevos rancheros (Ranch Eggs) is a classic Mexican breakfast dish which has become popular throughout much of the Americas. Huevos rancheros means “eggs ranch-style” or “eggs country-style” in Spanish. The dish traditionally was served at the large mid-morning breakfast, or almuerzo, on rural farms where workers had a much smaller meal at dawn.

The basic version of huevos rancheros consists of corn tortillas fried lightly, and fried eggs with a tomato–chili sauce. Refried beans (frijoles refritos), slices of avocado, fried potatoes, olives, and extra chili peppers are common accompaniments. Scrambled eggs can be used instead of fried eggs.

23 January 1886, Texas Sifitings, pg. 8:
Ox eyes (!),
What are ox eyes?
20 April 1893, Ohio Farmer, pg. 319:
OX EYES.—Take inch thick slices from light bread, cut into circles with a small cookie cutter, about three inches in diameter, cut out the center, leaving a wide ring of bread. Fry these rings in butter, lay them in a buttered dish, and pour over cream to moisten. Place a raw egg carefully in each ring, and set in the oven till the egg is well set; garnish with lettuce or English mustard.

11 June 1898, North Adams (MA) Transcript, pg. 7, col. 7:
Cut slices of bread into rounds with a large cutter, and then cut out the center. Toast them an even golden brown. Butter a round, shallow baking dish or large pie plate. Put the rings of toast in the plate, break eggs carefully and pour one into each cavity in the toast. Sprinkle with pepper and salt, pour a little cream in between the toast rounds and set in a moderate oven until the egg white is firm. 

12 September 1898, Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Reporter, pg. 4, col. 5:
How to Make Ox Eyes.
Cut five slices of bread into rounds with a large cutter and then cut out the center. Toast them an even golden brown. Butter a large pie plate. Put the rings of toast on the plate, break five eggs carefully and put one into each cavity. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, pour a little cream in between the toast and set in the oven until the egg white is firm. If the oven is very hot place the dish over boiling water, that the egg may not be overcooked.

16 June 1899, Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Herald, pg. 2, col. 2:
Ox Eyes.
Cut off pieces of bread tow inches thick from a long round loaf, trim off the crust, scoop out a portion from the center of each piece, then put them in a deep buttered dish. For each three pieces, beat well two eggs, three-fourths of a cup of milk and a pinch of salt. Baaste the bread with this liquid, till it is all absorbed, then break an egg into the cavity and bake the ox eyes in a hot oven.—Housewife.

13 October 1909, Coshocton (Ohio) Daily Tribune, pg.  7:
“Ox Eyes” For Two.
The drawback of fancy named for dishes is their tendency to be deficient in prosaic information. Would you order"angels on horseback,” for instance, if you did not know what sort of thing it was? And to appeal to the waiter to interpret is humiliating. A correspondent recalls his own fate in the matter of “ochsenaugen” (ox eyes). Having repeatedly seen them on the menu among the pudding class during a tour in Germany, he and his wife eventually ordered them. “Two portions?” asked the woman waiter. “Oh, yes, two portions.” It proved that two portions of ox eyes meant six fried eggs—as the final course of a hearty meal. And, as the wife had the moral courage to refuse to eat more than one, the cowardly husband, unwilling to give away that he had not known what he was ordering, had to worry down the five others.

26 February 1911, Galveston (TX) Daily News, magazine supplement, pg. 5, cols. 1-2:
Ox Eyes.
Eggs prepared in this English fashion make an attractive breakfast or luncheon dish. Cur rounds of rather fresh bread and scoop out an opening in the center, large enough to accommodate a broken egg. Dip the (illegible—ed.) of bread in (illegible—ed.) butter and arrange in a casserole or baking dish that can appear upon the table. Pour over them a little sweet cream or milk, just enough to moisten slightly, but not enough to make them soggy. Carefully break a raw egg into each bread ring taking pains not to disturb the yolk, add a little drop of milk to each and season with salt, pepper and minced parsley. Bake in a moderate oven until the whites are firm. Serve very hot with an accompaniment of water cress, fried tomatoes or asparagus tips. If a change is desired from time to time in the service of these “ox eyes” the bottom of the bread cups may be first sprinkled with grated cheese, minced ham or mushrooms before the eggs are dropped into their nests.

28 July 1951, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. A3:
I believe that the peppery sauced eggs known as “eggs in hell” or “eggs in purgatory” are of Mexican origin. “Hush puppies,” Texas “braggin’ bread,” and “Wear Willie cake” are pure United States,...

Google Books
Conversations with M.F.K. Fisher
edited by David Lazar
University Press of Mississippi
Pg. 80:
How to Cook a Wolf (1942) is a book like no other, with excursions on...Eggs in Hell (garlic and tomato sauce, ketchup will do).

New York Times
FRUGAL TRAVELER;Adobe and Cactus on the Cheap in Tucson
Published: January 21, 1996
“Eggs in Hell” (with green chilies, hot salsa and pinto beans) were on the menu, but I chose the “Boom-Boom” ($4.75), which consisted of scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, and jack cheese on a toasted baguette.

Google Books
California Rancho Cooking
by Jacqueline Higuera McMahon
Sasquatch Books
Pg. 11:
ojos de buey
[ox eyes or eggs in chile]
Carretas, or carts pulled by oxen, were the major form of California travel besides riding horseback until the mid-1800s when the first real carriage appeared. The Californios fondly named this dish of eggs poached in Red Chile Sauce after their beloved oxen. If you asked what was for breakfast, the reply of “ox eyes” was meant as a chiste, or joke, at the expense of the unsuspecting guest. Ojos de Buey is the earlier version of Huevos Rancheros (page 128) but even spicier.

Serve the eggs with frijoles or breakfast potatoes.

2 tablespoons pure olive oil or lard
6 corn tortillas
2 cups Re Chile Sauce (page 7)
8 eggs
1/4 cup halved pitted black olives
Sprigs of fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley, or oregano, minced (...)

The Tex-Mex Cookbook
by Robb Walsh
New York, NY: Broadway Books
Pg. 28:
Ox Eyes
“Ox Eyes” or “Eggs in Hell” are among the colorful names for eggs poached in hot sauce. This old recipe is a special favorite of campfire cooks. If you already have some hot sauce made, you can just dump it in the skillet and start from there. Serve immediately with Frijoles Refritos (page 27), additional warmed flour tortillas, and Cafe de Olla (page 37).

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
One 15-ounce can pureed tomatoes
4 eggs
4 flour tortillas, warmed (...)

Google Books
Fashionable Food:
Seven Decades of Food Fads
by Sylvia Lovegren
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
Pg. 11:
At the Santa Fe Bar & Grill in San Francisco he served Eggs in Hell, Texas style (hard-boiled eggs with red pepper purée, barbecue sauce, and cilantro).

Seth Says:
March 13th, 2006 at 11:23 pm
That’s an Anaheim pepper, one of the milder types. I mention it only for the benefit of other cooks who come upon this entry belatedly, as I did. Quite a resemblance to the Tex-Mex dish “Ox Eyes” or “Eggs in Hell”, but then again, there WOULD be a heavy Sephardi influence on Tex-Mex cooking, wouldn’t there?

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 21, 2007 • Permalink