Each week we lift the lid on CHOW.com's Test Kitchen to reveal the process behind the recipes.
Holidays are the lifeblood of food media, but they're also a curse: You gotta cover them, but every year it becomes more and more challenging to come up with an interesting take. So thinking about this year's feature for Easter, we went through the rounds. Natural egg dyeing? Not really about cooking. Unexpected deviled eggs? Did it. Crazy Scotch eggs? Now that was something we'd never tackled.
The idea for Scotch eggs—hard-cooked eggs encased in a gooey layer of sausage, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried—came from CHOW.com photographer Chris Rochelle. He's long been obsessed with them, but they also happen to be really trendy: New York CHOW Report contributor Liza de Guia spotted them at Rye by the hundreds; Bon Appétit tagged them hot for 2012; and hey, so did we!
Our plan was to stick to the basic structure of a Scotch egg but switch up the coatings. We settled on three variations: pumpkin and panko, inspired by something our editors found in a Vancouver izakaya; a "breakfast" egg, coated in breakfast sausage and corn flakes; and a Mexican-inspired one covered in chorizo and crushed corn chips.
Two big challenges: getting the timing just right so the yolks would end up slightly runny, and getting the coatings to stick.
For timing, we used CHOW.com's basic hard-boiled egg recipe but dialed the cooking time back to three minutes—long enough so the eggs were firm enough to peel, but could stand up to deep-frying without turning dry.
Getting the coatings to stick was a bigger challenge. Most recipes recommend "palming" the sausage around the egg while it's in your hand, but for us it yielded a lumpy, uneven coating that didn't stick. So associate food editor Christine Gallary (pictured) busted out a rolling pin and a sheet of plastic wrap to turn the chorizo into thin, even layers easy to drape over an egg, a method way better than the free-form approach. (Later, we learned via a tweet from a CHOW.com follower that this just happens to be Heston Blumenthal's preferred method.) A quick dip in flour, egg, and crushed chips, two and a half minutes in the fryer, and success!
But as you can see in the photo above, our izakaya-style pumpkin eggs were a total fail—the coating fried right off. The problem: We thought we could skip the egg wash for breading and the panko would adhere. Wrong! As soon as we added an egg wash and did a panko-egg-panko double dip, they stayed together. Turns out that when making Scotch eggs, you just can't skimp on egg. Check back in March for all three final recipes!