To scotch an egg
But when it comes to food, I love creativity. I love the idea of subverting expectations and presenting standard dishes in new ways. That's part of the reason our Madrid lunch at Club Allard is in my Top Ten Meals Evar; every dish took straightforward concepts and rebuilt them in unexpected ways — like the egg-that-wasn't for dessert.
But now I feel the need to speak up. And as it happens, the subject is eggs.
Scotch eggs, to be precise.
See, I grew up with Scotch eggs. (That sounds like they raised me, like wolves, but that's not true; the pork pies did most of that work.) And I know what they are: Boiled eggs, wrapped in pork sausage meat, breaded, deep-fried.
Though frankly, even that parsley garnish is improper.
In England, you can get them in chain supermarkets and village butchers and motorway service stations. They're great for picnics and quick lunches. I've even seen them served at a wedding (though to be fair, it was the sort of reception where the drink for the toast was whiskey for the gents and sherry for the ladies. I, of course, demanded the manly option).
So what's my beef now?
Oh, just this:
Chorizo Scotch eggs with tortilla chips
Kabocha squash Scotch eggs
Emeril's "kicked up" Scotch eggs with Creole seasoning
You'd think I'd be happy, right? Finally, the outdated view that British food is uniformly awful — everything overcooked and under-seasoned — is disappearing, and humble dishes like the Scotch egg are enjoying a moment in the sun.
And yet ...
I think it's just that my idea of the Scotch egg is very particular, and deeply rooted in nostalgia. I know, clearly, unhesitatingly, how it should taste: tiny breadcrumbs gritty on your fingertips, dry and yet leaving a faint greasy residue; textures changing as you bite through breading, then densely packed meat, then smooth, squeaky egg white, then soft yolk; peppery sausage contrasting with the clean purity of the egg.
Once you start experimenting with squash and spices, you're messing with my childhood.
This may seem a hypocritical rant, given that I'll jump to order Scotch eggs at any bar that offers them. The example above is from the Salt hill pub in Lebanon, NH (where they were listed as "Celtic eggs"). Here's the version from New York's Jones Wood Foundry, which also does a solid steak and kidney pie and possibly the best chips I've had in this whole country.
But it bugs me that compromise is necessary: Sure, we'll take your awful limey snacks, but we'll mess with them to make them more acceptable to our audiences. Hey, we do it all the time with TV shows!
I guess I should be happy that another staple of UK cuisine is now somewhat available over here. Maybe it's part of a very very (very) slow British invasion? Who knows what's next: pork pie? Steak and kidney pudding with suet pastry? Real proper fruit cake?
Ha ha! Don't think so!