A friend who now lives in Paris has a wonderful anecdote about the famed French habit of moderation in all things. While experiencing the French health care system from a hospital bed, a nurse came to take his lunch order. After he had made his choices she asked one more question:
“Rouge ou blanc, monsieur?”
In France, even the antiseptic sting of a hospital stay is moderated with a glass of wine at lunch. Just one, mind you.
But determining what moderation looks like in everyday life isn’t always easy. I have been to France and even the French aren’t moderate in all things (smoking, honking horns and detesting everything English come to mind). Take wine, for example, which we are constantly told to take “in moderation.” But whose version? My friend’s French physician tells him not to listen to the conservative advice of North American doctors. “They are all puritans,” he says.
That’s probably not bad counsel since another friend, who is a North American doctor, is always telling me things like “I just found a Greek study that says you can have up to 10 drinks a day.”
It’s hard to know what to believe. For me, however, moderation is mostly measured in terms of belt notches or how many waiters around town know exactly what kind of beer I am going to order before I order it. Life is full of subtle signals nudging you towards the moderate.
Take my deep fryer, for example. My guideline for frequency of use is simple; I can’t use the deep fryer unless it has accumulated a healthy layer of dust on top. Then, and only then, I can take it off the shelf and gorge – I mean dine – on fried chicken or worse.
Except for this once.
My deep fryer is dust free and it’s back in use. In fact, it’s barely dry from the last time I used it. But, ever since I made Scotch eggs for Super Bowl Sunday, I have been dying to try a more elegant version. And, food-loving friends coming over for Sunday dinner was just the excuse I needed.
To me there are no eggs more elegant than quail eggs. Tiny, fragile, exotic, mottled and deliciously sweet, they can lend sophistication to any meal. I planned an appetizer (see, a moderate portion) of hard-boiled quail eggs encased in an excellent all-lamb merguez sausage then breaded in panko before being deep fried just until the sausage was cooked through and the crust was a dark golden brown. They would be served on a bed of tabbouleh salad with a little tzatziki on the side to temper the spiciness of the merguez.
They turned out beautifully. Which, is a good thing because our friends had to cancel and fly off to a funeral, leaving L and I to eat the whole lot ourselves.
So much for moderation.
‘Scotch’ quail eggs with merguez sausage
1 1/4 pounds merguez sausage
Pinch of black pepper
6 hard-boiled quail eggs, peeled
1/2 cup or so all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko or bread crumbs
Canola oil for deep-frying the eggs
Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 350 F
To hard-boil quail eggs, place eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Turn off heat, cover pan and let the eggs sit for another four minutes. Immerse in ice water to cool before peeling.
Mix the black pepper with the sausage and form into four flat patties.
Set up a breading station with separate bowls of all-purpose flour, beaten egg and panko
Cover each peeled, hard-boiled egg with sausage meat and shape with your fingers until sealed. One at a time, cover with flour and shake off excess. Dip in beaten egg and, again, shake off excess. Finally, cover in panko or bread crumbs, dip in egg mixture again and back in panko or and deep fry two at a time for 5-7 minutes until dark golden brown. Drain on paper towel.