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Food Porn Friday: A brief tale of hubris and deep-fried Scottish delicacies

Scotch Egg

"Hello...I'm here to murder you in your sleep."

If I said, "In New Orleans, we like to fry our food," I think I'd have a difficult time finding someone to disagree with me.  And if I did, the poor bastard would probably be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail.  Or at least pilloried for public ridicule (we still have a couple of pillories left in the Big Easy, right?  I'm pretty sure I saw one near Jackson Square...).

It's not just that we love fried foods in NOLA, we've taken the medium and transformed it into something transcendent, an art form unique unto itself, dipped in flour and egg batter and dunked lovingly into perfectly bubbling liquid fat until golden brown.  It doesn't matter if you're behind the lunch counter at a greasy spoon or the chef de cuisine at a five-star restaurant with starched white tablecloths and a dining room packed to the chandeliers with pearls and seersucker, you're going to know how to perfectly fry an oyster.  If you don't, you won't last long, not in this town.

Other cities can keep their beautifully maintained, inexpensive and helpful systems of public transit, their pothole-free roadways, outstanding public schools and non-crumbling infrastructures.  To hell with that...at least here I can get a decent fried shrimp po-boy.

Indeed, perfectly fried food is art, and art must be respected, if not revered.  Which is why I got a bit nervous recently on an outing to the Irish House restaurant, on St. Charles Ave.  I was having a couple of pints with some old high school friends, happy to catch up on new times and reminisce about the old ones, when, of course, we started to get a little hungry.

Without even looking at the menu, my friend John asked the bartender if they served Scotch eggs.  "Um...I don't think so," she replied hesitantly, "but I can ask the chef."

"Okay," John said.  "If he can do it, we'll take six of them."

Now, if you didn't know, a Scotch egg is a treat in the United Kingdom traditionally served at picnics and similar festive events, and at pubs much like the Irish House.  Quite simply, it is a hard or softly boiled egg packed into a loose sausage mixture, breaded, battered, and deep fried.  Sure, we love our fried foods, our pork, and our eggs in this country...and this is all of them, in one supercharged, crunchy, creamy, eggy, fist-sized package with enough fat and cholesterol to make your cardiologist wet himself.

Naturally, it's just as good as it sounds.

Part of me was excited when John asked the bartender about Scotch eggs, but man, the balls on this guy!  It's not a particularly commonplace dish in these parts, and on top of that it requires a significant amount of skill and time to carry off properly, even if you happen to have all of the ingredients on hand.  Not to mention that it wasn't even on the menu...and six of them!  Having served my years in the service industry, I've seen trained, professional chefs scream bloody murder and threaten to fillet patrons with a boning knife for asking less.  It would be one thing if the chef was John's buddy, but my friend hadn't stepped a foot in the Irish house in his life.  Nonetheless, he remained undaunted.

Not long after, the sous chef emerged from the kitchen, took one look at our motley little cadre, and asked, "Are you the assholes who ordered all those Scotch eggs?"

I audibly gulped like a cartoon character, but John held his ground.  "Well," the sous chef said, and I was certain that he was about to tell us all where and exactly how far we could all go stick it, "it's been a while, and I have to thaw out some of our sausage mixture, but if you swear you're going to stick around for a bit, I'll make it happen for you."

Unbelievable.

Forty-five minutes later, the three of us were treated to six of the most beautiful, perfectly executed Scotch eggs I've ever tasted.  Not only did he take our off-the-menu request and knock it into the cheap seats, he elegantly plated each dish with a dollop of Creole mustard and a simple green salad.

Now, I would never in good conscience suggest that you demand off-the-menu items at any restaurant, especially ones in which you've never dined before.  It's a bold move, one that, in most circumstances, would only win you a healthy amount of scorn from the servers and kitchen staff.  Still, every now and again, these things just kind of work out for the best, and I'm willing to guess that they do so more here than in other places.  That seems to be the way of things down here, doesn't it?

God bless this town.

Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore and a blog by the same name, has written for GourmetEdible BrooklynThe Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Catch his weekly food column for The Advocate here.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.