Eggs a la monachina is one of the many Neapolitan recipes that originated in Naples between the 18th and 19th centuries; the very presence of béchamel is an element that betrays its origin.
It is therefore a recipe born as part of the gastronomic revolution that occurred in Naples under the reign of the Bourbons.
The complicated marriage relationship between Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, the “Lazzarone King,” and Queen Maria Carolina of Austria reached a compromise through the marriage of Neapolitan cuisine and French culinary influences.
It is said that Maria Carolina of Austria did not like the overly pronounced flavors of Neapolitan cuisine and therefore sought help from her sister Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, who sent to her court in Naples some of the best French cooks (called the monsieurs) to educate the Neapolitan cooks in the more refined tastes of the aristocratic French courts.
The Neapolitan cooks thus took the appellation Monsù (from monsieur) and then Monzù; but the character of Neapolitan cuisine was so pronounced and strong that it did not go away, but underwent a transformation that saw it enriched with typical French creams and preparations.
The recipe is very simple, requiring few ingredients and little preparation time, and perhaps it is only important to be careful about good dexterity.
Recommended time of year:
This is one of many egg recipes to serve on Easter Sunday (as an appetizer or main course), but the ingredients are available at any time of the year, so with fresh eggs laid by the laying hens in our small home chicken coop, we can make this appetizing dish whenever we feel like it (except during periods when our hens are off laying eggs).
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- 1/3 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 +1/2 tbsp of butter
- 1 cup of milk
- salt to taste
- 1 egg (for breading)
- all purpose flour (for breading)
- breadcrumbs (for breading)
- oil for frying
First, prepare the hard-boiled eggs and let them cool well before removing the shells.
We then prepare the béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan and adding the flour, stirring vigorously. We add the milk and a pinch of salt and cook the béchamel, stirring constantly until it has thickened.
It is important to cook the béchamel until it is quite full-bodied and thick: this way it will act as a glue.
At this point we proceed to peel the hard-boiled eggs, splitting them in half lengthwise, and then removing the yolk, which we are going to add to the béchamel sauce, thus preparing a thick and homogeneous mixture, to be placed then back into the egg in place of the yolk itself.
This is the most complex operation from the point of view of manual dexterity, so much so that some propose not to recompose the egg, but to use the mixture of yolk and béchamel by placing it in abundance on the two halves, as if to reconstruct the shape of the missing half.
Once the eggs have been reassembled (or partially reassembled), place them in the freezer and let them firm up for about 1-2 hours (as little as one hour is sufficient).
At this point we proceed with the breading (passing the eggs first in flour, then in lightly beaten egg and then in breadcrumbs) and then fry in boiling oil using a tall, narrow pan.
When the breading is golden brown, the monkish eggs are finally ready to be served; it is important to serve them warm to appreciate the creaminess of the bechamel-yolk mixture.
Tips and variations:
You can add grated Parmesan cheese and/or nutmeg and/or aromatic herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, etc.) to the filling in addition to the béchamel and firm yolks.
For a lighter preparation, you can bake the monachina eggs in the oven: lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush them with oil and bake in a preheated oven at 390 F for about ten minutes or until golden brown.
Monk eggs should be eaten immediately.
Should they be left over, you can store them in the refrigerator for a day, inside an airtight container.
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