Food: The rebirth of Scotch eggs

Scotch Egg Brunch Bowl with a baked and sliced Scotch egg, asparagus, lightly dressed salad and cheddar cheese. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Scotch Egg Brunch Bowl with a baked and sliced Scotch egg, asparagus, lightly dressed salad and cheddar cheese. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo

Thoughts of brunch naturally conjure images of fluffy yellow omelets, robust bowls full of piping hot oatmeal and stacks of pancakes dripping with maple syrup. While these brunch mainstays will always have a place at the late morning table, looking deep into the past reveals a lesser known, but equally indulgent brunch offering.

Scotch eggs are anything but Scottish. They were first cooked up by the iconic British market Fortnum and Mason and are rumored to have made their debut in the 18th century as snack food for well-to-do travelers. The prestigious market’s offering of diminutive hard-cooked eggs wrapped in forcemeat served as a perfect and unexpected on-the-go snack.

While Fortnum and Mason lives on as a resected purveyor of hamper fare to this day, Scotch eggs unfortunately fell victim to mass production and became the British equivalent of the wretched gas-station burrito.

Overcoming a bad reputation is challenging, but thanks in part to the burgeoning gastro-pub industry of recent years, Scotch eggs are enjoying a well-deserved rebirth on the culinary scene. After all, who doesn’t love the thought of a baseball-sized orb of sausage and eggs on a Sunday morning?

Use of farm fresh eggs and high quality sausage meat is helping to change minds about this non-traditional brunch item. Chefs are even riffing on this classic by hiding eggs in mixtures of everything from salmon to crayfish these days.

I served up a batch of fairly traditional Scotch eggs at a recent brunch I hosted for a group of lovely ladies. Not only did they find the curious dish appealing to look at, but they all qualified them as unexpectedly addictive. In that instant, I knew every home cook would do well to have a go-to recipe for Scotch eggs in their breakfast arsenal.

Scotch eggs are traditionally breaded and fried to allow deft cooks the flexibility to yield a slightly runny yolk in their finished egg, but my fool-proof version is baked to ensure consistent results. Sacrificing a runny yolk for safely cooked pork seems like a fair trade off to me. Toasting homemade bread crumbs before using them to coat the encased eggs yields a shatteringly crisp exterior without warranting a dunk in a deep fat fryer — just don’t start thinking baking these indulgent spheres makes them healthy!

I’ve found that enhancing the sausage meat that encases the egg with fresh herbs lends complexity to the dish without becoming too fussy. Six-minute eggs peel with ease and yield whites that are sturdy enough to withstand a little bit of manhandling; wrapping the eggs is the trickiest part of making this old-fashioned dish, but it is well worth the effort. The eggs can be wrapped a day before you plan to bake them offering make-ahead convenience.

I adore serving my Scotch eggs with a lightly dressed salad topped with loads of fresh veggies and sharp cheddar cheese for a flavorful brunch offering that brings the glory back to an iconic British dish.

Scotch Egg Brunch Bowl 

(Serves 4)

For the Scotch eggs:

3 large eggs

1 pound bulk Italian sausage

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 slices wheat bread

1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 eggs, beaten

For the Brunch Bowl:

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 cups fresh arugula

4 tomatoes, cut into 1/8ths

12 asparagus spears, trimmed, blanched and shocked

8 small slices sharp cheddar cheese

4 Tablespoons Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

For the Eggs:

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with lukewarm water by 2 inches. Allow the eggs to sit for 15 minutes. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 6 minutes. Transfer eggs to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Peel the eggs under running water and set aside.

Mix the sausage with the scallions and chives. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and mix well. Flatten about a 1/2 cup of the meat mixture into 1/4-inch thick patty. Place a boiled egg in the center and wrap the meat around the egg to fully encapsulate; pinch off the excess meat as you go. Smooth the meat around the egg with wet hands and set the wrapped eggs aside. Can be done one day ahead; store the wrapped eggs covered in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the bread in a food processor and transfer the crumbs to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the crumbs are light brown and toasted — about 8-10 minutes. Allow crumbs to cool and transfer to a shallow dish.

Set up a three set breading station. Dip a wrapped egg into the seasoned flour and coat well. Dip the floured egg into the beaten eggs and roll in the bread crumbs to coat. Place the breaded eggs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake the eggs for 25-30 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into quarters and serving.

To Assemble the Breakfast Bowl:

Spread a little Dijon mustard in the bottom of a bowl with a pastry brush. Place 1 cup of arugula in each bowl and divide the asparagus and tomatoes evenly among the bowls. Drizzle each salad with 1 tablespoon of the Balsamic vinaigrette. Place 3 sections of Scotch egg in each bowl and serve with two cheese slices.

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