Let’s Eat: Scotch eggs were the Naked Egg taco of the 18th century

By Bryna Godar   –   The Cap Times

At The Coopers Tavern they serve a “Sconnie Egg,” featuring house-made brat sausage wrapped around a soft-boiled egg, served with a variety of pickles and a beer and mustard aioli ($7).

Egg wrapped in sausage that’s breaded and deep-fried sounds like a fast-food experiment akin to the Naked Egg Taco, the inside-out Taco Bell invention with a fried egg as the wrap.

In a way, that’s exactly what the Scotch egg is. Food writers dispute the popular snack’s origins, but the upscale English department store Fortnum and Mason claims to have invented Scotch eggs in the 18th century as a portable, ready-to-eat meal for coach travelers.

In other words: fast food.

Scotch eggs are not actually Scottish in origin. Many believe the name stemmed from technique of “scotching,” or tenderizing, the meat.

In U.K. shipyards, these eggs were a working man’s breakfast along with a pint of Scotch ale, according to Peter McElvanna, owner of The Coopers Tavern. In the centuries since, Scotch eggs have become popular pub and picnic fare all over the United Kingdom and beyond.

“I’ve been eating them my whole life,” said McElvanna, who is from Armagh in Northern Ireland.

Scotch eggs can be hard- or soft-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs, then baked or fried. They’re typically served sliced in half and accompanied by mustard, pickles or other condiments.

The result is a filling snack or small meal that can be served hot or cold, making Scotch eggs ideal for camping breakfasts, lakeside picnics or late-night beers at a pub.

The basic concept of a Scotch egg allows for ample variation, with some people using quail eggs for smaller serving sizes or opting for different condiments like chili jam. In Madison, a handful of pubs and restaurants offer Scotch eggs with varying types of sausage, sauces and condiments.

At The Coopers Tavern, it’s called the “Sconnie Egg,” featuring house-made bratwurst sausage wrapped around a soft-boiled egg. It’s breaded and fried, then served with a variety of pickles and a beer and mustard aioli ($7).

Sprecher’s Restaurant and Pub also opts for bratwurst, with sauerkraut on the side for a more German take (two eggs, $7.99). Brocach offers a similar riff to Coopers, but with a hard-boiled instead of soft-boiled egg and the addition of stone ground mustard ($5).

My family first encountered Scotch eggs when we lived in Farnborough, England for a year. Fran Griffin introduced us to the dish.

“No matter how many you make, there are never any leftovers,” Griffin told me when I wrote to her on Facebook.

The closest to my family’s Scotch eggs was a version from Flying Hound Alehouse in Fitchburg that uses a coarser ground, spicy Hungarian sausage and a spicy, mildly sweet Dijon style mustard ($5).

Chef Andreas Kammer said the trick to his Scotch eggs is in the breading process. Instead of dropping each coated egg round right in the fryer, he bakes them in the oven before flash-frying.

He said that helps the sausage and egg hold together well and keeps the breading from getting too dark in the oil. The result is a delicious, filling combination, with mild-to-medium heat from the mustard.

Kammer said customers love the Scotch eggs enough that he’s run out a couple times in the past year.

“They’re a high-prep item,” he said. “You have to make a bunch of them at a shot.”

My parents have opted for solely baking their Scotch eggs as an easier and somewhat healthier alternative. We hard boil the eggs and wrap them in mild Italian sausage from Fraboni’s Italian Specialties and Delicatessen on Regent Street, using a generous ratio of about one pound of sausage to six eggs.

Then we roll the balls in store-bought breadcrumbs and bake them at 350 degrees until they’re nicely browned on each side, about 30 to 35 minutes. To make them even crispier, pan fry the egg after baking, turning it to darken each side.

These meaty, satisfying eggs have become a staple of our long hikes, picnics at American Players Theater and neighborhood block parties.

“People do love them,” Kammer said.