Saturday, March 30, 2013

To scotch an egg

I'm not a stickler for tradition. Okay, well maybe a little, especially when it comes to adherence to proper grammar and basic traffic rules (don't. Get me started).

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.

Egg dessert at Club Allard in Madrid

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.

Like this.

Scotch egg

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 Finally, the outdated view that British food is uniformly awful — everything overcooked and under-seasoned — is disappearing, and humble dishes like the Scotch egg are enjoying a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.

Scotch eggs

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!


Anonymous Catherine said...

Love this post. I often saw scotch eggs in the supermarket while living in England, but never actually ventured to buy some. But they sound rather easy to make - and now that you've described what it involves . . . sounds kinda tasty! I don't know about all those new takes, but your traditional version sounds like a nice food to investigate. ~Catherine

8:21 AM  
Blogger Suzie Sims-Fletcher said...

...and now, dear reader we take you back in time, back to a time when a young lass, barely 22 and her knightly lord (a Brit, if not royal, is nothing) decided to host a dinner party.

armed with easily a half dozen cookery books (the inlaws were sure she knew NOTHING about wifely chores), she attempted an "authentic " English meal from the bowels of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Turns out (rather than turns on - again- you with the dirty mind!) the oven didn't heat on one side. How would someone know that if nothing (I just wanted to say "nothing" three times, the word - not the nothing-ness -although this is quite possibly the most NOTHING comment possible -oooh now I can start with repetitions of forms of possible) what was I saying?

oh well, anyway - there was freaking raw saussage around these eggs and it was our main course (why did we not make a roast - oh, i suppose the yorkshire puds would have given away the oven situation)...

memories of a time long gone, before the knight was bald and the little lass fully discovered the magic of the crock pot.

NOTE: I have tried to type the secret code (below) four times now - bleh! why can't i decipher?

4:19 AM  

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