Monday, October 21, 2013

Culinary Adventures

So last night I made Scotch eggs. For anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to have one, it's a boiled egg (hard or soft yolk is debated, and up to the cook) encased in a layer of sausage, then a layer of crumb-breading, then deep fried. (There are oven variants, which are hellspawn. Okay, not really, but if you're going to eat Scotch eggs, you might as well go for it, right?)

I had a Scotch egg on our last cruise, where one of the lounges had a British Lunch sort of thing going once a week. They were wonderous -- eggy and crunchy and sausagey, like the perfect breakfast in one bite -- and I've wanted to try making them ever since. "Ever since" finally came yesterday, but unfortunately the process wasn't without its bumps and diversions.

I'm more of a technique cook than a recipe cook; I'd rather learn a technique, then apply it to different foods, than have to memorize a bunch of recipes. When I'm baking I'll usually have a recipe on the counter, because baking is fussy like that, but most savory dishes are freestyle-friendly, once you've accumulated a certain amount of experience. So I typed "scotch egg" into Google and browsed through a few recipes to get the basic idea, then closed the browser and went off on my own.

You need a lot of oil for deep frying, which I've never done before. Seriously, if I got into the habit of deep frying, I'd be significantly fatter than I am now, so it's just as well it's a major pain. (No, we're not buying a countertop deep-fryer gadget, no-no-no.) So the husband brought home a couple of bottles of extra oil (just basic canola), and a pound of bulk breakfast type sausage, and a carton of fresh eggs. I had AP flour and panko breadcrumbs (which I used because, crunchy), plus seasonings and such, all on hand.

First, boil the eggs. My favorite way to boil eggs is in the electric kettle. You fill it about halfway with cold water, put your eggs in carefully (up to about four, depending on the size of the kettle) then flip the switch. The kettle goes on, and when the water boils, it turns itself off. If I'm just making hardboiled eggs for egg salad or something, I leave them in until the water's cooled enough that I can get the eggs out without scalding myself, since I like my hardboiled eggs hardboiled. For Scotch eggs, though, I was going to be cooking the eggs again, so I fished them out with a spoon about five minutes after the kettle shut off, then put them into a bowl of cold water to chill down.

When they were cool enough to handle, I filled a dutch oven (ours is enameled, but I don't think it matters) to within about 3" of the top with the oil, clipped a fry thermometer onto the side, and got it heating. I peeled the eggs and set them aside, got everything else out and set up, then checked the thermometer. It wasn't even registering yet and it'd been about ten minutes, so I left everything and went back to my computer for a bit, figuring I'd check it in another twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes later, the oil was "steaming" and the thermometer still wasn't registering anything. :/ Okay, most likely a broken thermometer. We have one of those cool, gun-shaped infrared thermometers, and it said the surface of the oil was some ridiculous temperature, like seven hundred degrees. O_O Oops. Okay, turn the heat off, and carefully shift the kettle off the hot burner.

The oil's clearly past its smoke point, which means it's technically ruined. In reality, I didn't have any more oil, so I figured I'd try it anyway. First times are for experimenting, right? Mental note, buy another fry thermometer before I do this again.

While waiting for the oil to cool, I broke the sausage slab into four approximately equal chunks, for about a quarter pound of sausage per egg, and flattened each chunk out. The recipes generally say to roll the sausage out between two pieces of clingfilm (which is British for plastic wrap) but I hate that stuff, so I just put it down on a piece of parchment paper and flattened each one out with my palm. I rolled each egg in AP flour in a little bowl, shaking off excess, then wrapped it in sausage. (Flour before sausage is supposed to help the sausage cling.) Shaping the sausage around the egg, once you've got it basically wrapped, is a lot like making meatballs; the actual shaping motion is a lot like that, if you've made meatballs.

I broke two more eggs into another little bowl and beat them, then filled a third little bowl with the panko breadcrumbs. I added some salt and white pepper and garlic powder to the panko, and stirred it up. When the oil was back down around 365 (the recipes said you want it around 350 for the frying, but putting stuff into the oil lowers the temp a bit) I took the first sausaged egg, dipped it in flour, then beaten egg, then rolled it in panko, dipped it in egg again, then rolled it in panko again. The double layer of crumbs is supposed to make the coating extra crunchy. Then I slipped it into the oil with a spider, since dropping it in didn't seem like a good idea. On to eggs two, three and four.

They fried up nicely, and I started taking them out when the panko crust hit a sort of medium-dark brown. Jim and I let them cool off, then ate them like finger food while watching TV.

I couldn't taste the smoked oil in the fried crust, which is good. But the sausage layer was a bit underdone (we ate them anyway and they were tasty and we didn't get sick) and I suspect that the smoked oil made the crust brown faster than it would've with unsmoked oil. Also, if the surface of the oil was 365 when I put the eggs in, the interior was probably a lot hotter, something I didn't think about at the time. So I probably fried them at too high a temperature, which would also darken the outside before the inner sausage cooked all the way. I'll do better in both areas next time.

And there'll definitely be a next time. Despite the glitches, these things are incredibly yummy. Two was very filling, and makes a good meal, if you're not fussy about your produce; most people would probably be good with one Scotch egg and a big salad or something. I imagine Travis would be good with just two eggs and call it a meal, which is what Jim and I did.

Good stuff, definitely worth keeping in the repertoire.



Charles Gramlich said...

You wrote: "I broke two more eggs into another little bowl and beat them"

I reply: "Oh the horror and inhumanity. And to know it's not fiction but truth! A Halloween horror indeed! :)

Angie said...

Charles -- LOL! Right, I'd better hope no one reports me for that or I'll end up in prison for ovum abuse! :D


Suzan Harden said...

This must be the week for Scotch eggs. DH had never had them before, tried one at brunch on Sunday and loved it. The whole thing is amazing because he swears he hates eggs and he NEVER tries new things.

Angie said...

Suzan -- I guess something deep-fried, with sausage, was enough to overcome the whole "egg" thing? :)