Smoked Eggs at the McGillivray’s from A Breath of Snow and Ashes

Smoked Eggs at the McGillivray’s from A Breath of Snow and Ashes

Roger glanced from the darkened shop to the convivial crowd round the fire; a good many of Ute’s relations had ridden over with the lucky bridegroom and his friends from Salem, bringing with them an immense barrel of black beer, which was adding to the festivities.  The air was yeasty with the tang of hops.

By contrast, the cooper’s shop had a desolate, glowering sort of air about it.  She wondered whether anyone around the fire had yet missed Ronnie Sinclair.

“I’ll go and have a bit of a blether with him, aye?”  Roger touched her back in brief affection.  “He could maybe use a sympathetic ear.”

“That and a stiff drink?”  She nodded toward the house, where Robin McGillivray was visible through the open door, pouring what she assumed to be whisky for a select circle of friends.

“I imagine he will have manage that for himself,” Roger replied dryly.  He left her, making his way around the convivial group by the fire.  He disappeared in the dark, but then she saw the door of the cooper’s shop open, and Roger silhouetted briefly against the glow from within, his tall form blocking the light before vanishing inside.

“Wanna drink, Mama!”  Jemmy was wriggling like a tadpole, trying to get down.  She set him on the ground, and he was off like a shot, nearly upsetting a stout lady with a platter of corn fritters.

The aroma of the steaming fritters reminded her that she hadn’t had any supper, and she made her way after Jemmy to the table of food, where Lizzie, in her role as almost-daughter-of-the-house, helped her importantly to sauerkraut, sausages, smoked eggs, and something involving corn and squash.

Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Chap 6 (Doubleday Canada, 2005)

This week’s tale from Outlander Kitchen involves a recipe clash between the centuries — perhaps not on the scale of a showdown between Frank Randall and Jamie Fraser (swords or pistols?) — but an interesting comparison of techniques, nonetheless.

I look for functioning standing stones the way a Tolkien fan searches for hobbit holes or a Harry Potter fan looks out for Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross, so I’m sure you can guess which century I was rooting for.

And if you’re anything like me, you won’t be disappointed.

hardboiled-eggs-cracked

The modern recipe comes from a chef friend of Oprah.

It’s a simple technique, involving cracking the shells of hard-boiled eggs and then smoking them (I used hickory) at 225°F for 45 minutes.

I placed the eggs on the warming rack of my gas barbecue and sprinkled wood chips directly on the metal grill (you can also put the chips in a foil pan — use a skewer to make dozens of holes in the bottom — then set the pan on the grill), closed the lid and set the dial on low.

After 5 minutes, the thermometer on my little mid-range barbecue left the desired temperature behind and didn’t settle back down until it reached about 400°F.  I lifted the lid occasionally to dissipate the heat but that, of course, gave the smoke an escape. In the end, I was left with overcooked/under-smoked eggs.

eggs-bbq  

Ute McGillivray most likely had complete control over the temperature at which her eggs were smoked.  My guess is that eggs were put in the spaces between the fish and poultry to make the most of a hot-smoke fire.

I’m also pretty certain that Mrs. McG. would never have served the sorry looking specimens shown above.  The skin on the outside in unpalatably tough, and other then the obvious smoky colour on the outside, the interiors of these rubbery eggs were left untouched by the flavour of  hickory.

I’ll admit that the experiment was completed under less than ideal conditions.  But even after just one try, I’m confident in supposing that over-worked pioneer women, especially practical German ones, wouldn’t have hard boiled eggs before smoking them; it just doesn’t make sense to add an extra step.

smoked-eggs-rack

And so I took the other half of my dozen and put them into my smoker raw. This little beauty is basically the shell of a bar fridge fitted with an element and a digital control panel.

Hardly 18th Century, but it does hold a steady 225°F, thank you very much.  If you don’t have a smoker, and your barbecue tends to run on the hot side like mine, here are some other options:

  • Embrace easy and cheap and make your own Stovetop Smoker with an old wok and small cooling rack.
  • Add to your kitchen accessory collection and buy a Stovetop Smoker.
  • Go fully authentic and build your own Smokehouse.  (It helps to have your own personal Jamie Fraser for this.)

smoked-egg-shell

This time, the colour and flavour of the smoke penetrated through the white to just touch the yolk.  These old-fashioned babies were delicious.

Ute McGillivray’s Smoked Eggs

The next time I put some chicken or tuna into the smoker, I’ll fill in the gaps with eggs.  It’s an easy, flavourful, yet unusual way to bring the Fraser Clan to your table.

Place as many eggs as you want in your chosen smoking device and smoke for 2 hours at 225°F (low).  Remove from the smoker and cool before serving.

Store smoked eggs (still in their shell) in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Tips:

  • If you are smoking on the stovetop, ensure your exhaust fan is on from the VERY BEGINNING.
  • Use an oven thermometer placed on the rack with the eggs to monitor the temperature in a stovetop smoker.
  • Farm-fresh eggs can be hard to peel after cooking.  Use eggs that are at least a week old or follow this tip to make things easier.
  • The smoke on the shell leaves nicotine-like stains on your fingertips — wear gloves when peeling the eggs.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)

smoked-egg-cups

Brianna would have peeled her own eggs and enjoyed them, sprinkled with a little salt, alongside her heaps of sausages and sauerkraut.

I served mine to the last meeting of our book club, mashed with some green onions, cilantro, salt, pepper and mayo, and stuffed into lightly grilled tomato cups.

The finishing touch is a little homemade chili oil, a 21st Century, Asian update on the traditional late 20th Century middle-America garnish, paprika.  I think Mr. Willoughby would approve — not that he has anything to do with it.

(But where is he, anyway?)

I am a professional chef, a food writer and an unabashed fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

30 Comments

  1. Lee Ann

    I want to build my own smokehouse now! Fingers crossed I can find my own personal Jamie Fraser to build one for me :)

    I never would have thought about smoked eggs…even after reading that part in A Breath of Snow and Ashes…thanks for the experiment! I am all for experimenting lately!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Yes…you`ve been cooking up a storm lately! How did the cardone go?

      Reply

  2. Laura

    Wow! You may have noticed when I referenced this scene as one of my favorites in your last poll, I omitted the smoked eggs. They didn’t sound too appealing and I couldn’t even imagine how to smoke eggs, but those are beautiful! And served in the tomato cups definitely gets my stomach rumbling. Thanks for tackling that recipe, Theresa. That reminds me…Santa, I want a smoker for Christmas.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I’ll put a word in with Santa to make sure you get that smoker — they’re great to have around…

      Reply

      • Laura

        Thanks for the good word, Theresa. Santa delivered! And I just made it out to the market to replenish my eggs from all the last minute holiday baking. I’ll be trying these soon. Happy New Year!

        Reply

        • Theresa

          Not at all…anything I can do to help! ;)

          Reply

  3. ruaTimeTraveler2

    What a CLEVER idea!…….So trying this!…8)

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Great news Vickie — let me know how you like them!

      Reply

  4. The Mom Chef ~ Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Time

    The smoked eggs are breathtakingly beautiful. I wouldn’t have wanted to crack them. I have a smoker so you can be sure that I’ll be giving these a go. Ute McGillivray was an amazing woman, that’s for sure.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Formidable comes to mind!

      Reply

  5. Kiri W.

    Looks delicious! I’ve had smoked eggs (in Germany, since I grew up there), and really enjoyed them, I’d love to try my own!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Homemade tastes even better! Let us know if you try them.

      Reply

  6. Hey Paw

    This sounds so good! What a great idea to fix foods from those fantastic Diana Gabaldon novels. I’m re-reading them now. I am going to try these. Have you been to “Island vittles” blog at blogspot.com? She posted a recipe for Pigeon and Truffle rolls. (She substituted the pigeon). Sounds so good!
    Thank you,
    Hazel
    Heypaw.blogspot.com

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Hazel — great to have you in the kitchen…I’ll let you in on a little secret: I am also IslandVittles.com — pretty tricky, eh? I’ve reposted the Pigeon and Truffle Rolls here on Outlander Kitchen — you’ll find it in the archives.

      Reply

  7. Maxxie

    this reminds me Chinese Tea Eggs :)
    Mmmmm…

    Reply

    • Theresa

      That’s exactly what I thought when I peeled the first one, Maxxie — the patterns on the shells are beautiful.

      Reply

  8. claudia

    We have a smoker – covered for the winter. There is a romanticism that surrounds those eggs – the story and their beauty.

    Reply

  9. Deborah Dowd

    These are so beautiful. I have made tea eggs but smoked eggs sounds really interesting.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      They were delicious, Deborah. Like I said, next time the smoker’s on, some eggs are going in the small spaces. Awesome egg salad!

      Reply

  10. bananamondaes

    Eggs are my most favourite things in the world. This is a wonderful post. I think id eat them with sn Arbroath smokie and a tomato salad.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Glad to meet another egg lover! I’m up for a picnic with your smokies and salad…

      Reply

  11. Hey Paw

    Ok Theresa, I have a “fail” for ya’ on the smoked eggs. For my husbands birthday dinner I thought I’d WOW everyone with these beautiful eggs. So, I got the “smoker chips” like you said, and since my grill is kinda big, I decided to get a tin cookie sheet (instead of pie plate) and poke holes in it and spread with smoker chips. My first try didn’t produce any smoke at all, grill set too low. Since the guests would be there in 2 hours I decided to increase the grill heat, once smoke started I’d add the eggs and turn the heat down. I increased the heat, kept on with the other dinner prep’s and didn’t think about the grill again. Until. My four year old comes running into the kitchen and up to the screen door screaming FIRE FIRE FIRE, the grill is on FIIIRRREEEE!!! Well, the good news, we had smoke……

    Reply

    • Theresa

      No! Aaagh! If it makes you feel any better, I once put 4 racks of pork ribs under the broiler (on high), then promptly forgot (sound familiar?) and drove to the grocery store about 10 minutes away…I remembered in the produce section and the oven was just starting to pour smoke by the time I got home!

      Reply

  12. An “Elizabethan” Salmagundi from The Scottish Prisoner (Sort of) « Outlander Kitchen

    [...] the middle) from homegrown potatoes, and threw in some crisp bacon, dill and preserved lemon.  I smoked half a dozen local eggs, then devilled them with a little mayo and curry [...]

    Reply

  13. bullrem

    I have not read all the other folks post, so maybe this has been said/tried. I have chickens – so then I have fresh eggs. I plan to do a bit of BBQing Monday. I think I will give this a go. I plan to use some of your suggestions. However, I have a two burner and I am thinking if I just use the one with the eggs to the far ‘off’ side I just might be able to do this. You know I am always up for a challenge. Helen in Ark.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I love hearing about your culinary experiments, Helen! Go for it…

      Reply

  14. Heather Dollman

    Well I gave it a shot. I haven’t opened them up yet but one tried to “hatch” itself LOL they look lovely though.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I hope you enjoyed them, Heather…well done! Theresa

      Reply

  15. Polly

    Do the eggs need to be pierced so they won’t explode?

    Reply

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