June 12, 2012

Wee Ones Scotch Quail Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are perhaps the lowest-fat way of enjoying an egg (except for maybe poached). Fried and scrambled sure make breakfast best, but what happens when you take said hard-boiled egg, wrap it in breakfast sausage, roll it in breadcrumbs, and deep fry that sucker to golden brown?

A heart attack maybe?

Scotch eggs are widely known as a delectable pub food, served appetizer-style, with mustard or remoulade. At least that's where I've seen them, on the menus of upper-crust Irish and English pubs around the gastrotown of Chicago. Scotch egg folklore says they originated as portable food for wealthy coach travelers in London, usually made of smaller hens' eggs (once wrapped in sausage and coated in breadcrumbs, today's American large and extra-large eggs would in fact make for a heart attack). They were meant to be made of various leftovers, the typical "poor-man's lunch."

Alternative stories take it all the way back to Indian origins, likening it to a soft fried meaty dumpling called kofta. Whatever's it's birthplace and birthright, it's a mighty tasty treat, and can be enjoyed less calorically.

I tried my hand at making what's known as Wee Ones, when I recently found quail eggs at a gourmet grocery store nearby. Quail eggs are typically more prevalent over the holidays, but when I chanced upon these beautiful babies, I decided to embark on making Wee Ones Scotch Quail Eggs using chicken sausage and a smaller egg. I served them with cheddar ale mustard and ranch dressing, along with a salad of cucumber, tomato, blue cheese, and chopped pecans. Absolutely delicious, and despite the deep frying, smaller eggs and chicken sausage made us feel somewhat better about consuming so much cholesterol at once. I certainly wouldn't make these a monthly menu offering in our house, but for one-time fun, they were truly awesome!

This recipe makes 18, only because the grocery store where I purchased them sold them by the dozen-and-a-half. I've supplied a link to purchase them online in increments of 2 dozen, but check any specialty store in your area. Whole Foods in my area did not have them, so you need to consider a smaller, more specialized gourmet grocery store.

Wee Ones Scotch Quail Eggs (adapted from Scrumptious)

18 quail eggs 
1/2 lb fresh chicken sausage, casings removed
6 fresh sage leaves, very finely minced
the finely grated zest of a lemon
a pinch of cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
a pinch of allspice (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and milled black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs (
Panko crumbs are ideal)
mustard and salad dressing of your choice

Bring a large, deep pot of water to a gentle rolling boil. Place all the eggs in a large metal sieve and immerse it very slowly in the boiling water. Very gently and slowly, tilt the sieve so all the eggs roll out into the boiling water. Boil the eggs for exactly two minutes and 20 seconds (set a timer!). Pour off the boiling water and fill the pot to the brim with cold water from the tap. Leave the pot under a trickling cold tap for 7 minutes, allowing the water to spill over the edges.

Drain the eggs, gently crack the shells and peel them. The shells should come away easily, but if they do not, peel them under cold running water. Pat the eggs dry and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sausage, sage, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, allspice, and nutmeg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Divide the sausage meat into 18 equal portions. Roll a portion into a ball, flatten it in the palm of your hand to make a patty and put a cooked quail’s egg on top.  Gently wrap the the meat around the egg to enclose it completely, pinching the mixture to close any gaps. Now roll the ball delicately between your palms to create a pleasing egg shape. Repeat with the remaining eggs.  Put the eggs on a plate, cover with clingfilm and chill again for 30 minutes.

Place the flour on one large plate, the beaten eggs in a small bowl, and the breadcrumbs on the second large plate. Line a final plate with paper towels and set aside. Roll the Scotch eggs in the flour and shake to remove the excess. Dip the eggs in the beaten egg yolk, then roll them gently in the breadcrumbs, patting down gently so that the crumbs stick.  Fill a wok or deep fryer halfway with vegetable to 325ºF. Fry the eggs, four or five at a time, for 4-1/2 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Remove and drain on paper-towel-lined plate.

Serve immediately with mustard and dressing of your choice. Serves 6-8.

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