Huevos Haminados are eggs, slow-cooked in onion skins, that were traditionally eaten by the Sephardic Jews of Spain. The eggs were left to cook in the oven overnight, nestled in a cholent (stew), and eaten for the Sabbath--hence the name "huevos haminados" meaning "oven eggs" in Ladino. They also could be cooked without the stew, obtaining a dark stain and roasted flavor from onion skins. As the Jews left Spain with the Inquisition and settled all over the Arab and Mediterranean world, they retained this method of cooking eggs. The name of the dish changes with location: "beid hamine" in Egypt, "Greek eggs" in Italy, and in Greece, "Selanlik yamurta" (Salonika eggs) or "Yahudi yamurta" (Jewish eggs....try Googling "Jewish eggs" for something totally different.)
In the fascinating book, A Drizzle of Honey, authors David Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson explore the food customs of the conversos -- Spanish Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition. The courts of the Inquisition were fond of using civilian "spies" to discover Jews covertly still practicing their rituals--often culinary--even though they had converted. A Drizzle of Honey offers a collection of court testimonies and recipes (though way too medieval to be appetizing now) used to turn in these secret Jews. This article gives a better description than I can of this subject. Funny how something as seemingly benign as huevos haminados was probably a dangerous thing to be cooking... Thankfully the dish survived the Inquisition. Which is a good thing because eggs cooked this way are creamy textured, almost caramelized and gorgeous.
I know plenty of people who are turned off by hard-boiled eggs--probably from eating chalky, rubbery, and stinky ones. Cooking eggs for too long and at too high a temperature causes the the formation of hydrogen sulfide (stinkiness) and ferrous sulfide (that telltale green ring). As Kenji of Serious Eats shows with experiments, a couple degrees and a couple of minutes can make a big difference with hard-boiled eggs. The beauty of huevos haminados is that you don't have to worry about all that. The eggs go in a pot on the stove or in the oven...or in this case, a crockpot, and cook at a low temperature overnight--a few minutes more or less won't make any difference.
Those times when we would have these dark brown eggs for Passover always felt special. I assumed that there was a lot of work involved to make eggs this way but that simply isn't true, especially with the slow-cooker. Now I make them all the time to have around as breakfast or a quick snack. They also look beautiful halved in a bean salad. I collect onion skins in a bag in the freezer, but you can ask your grocer for some extra skins.
- 8-10 eggs
- onion skins, rinsed (anywhere from 4-7 cups)
- about 3 T black tea leaves
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 olive oil
- few peppercorns
Put the onion skins in the slow-cooker and then nestle the eggs in, covering them. Cover with cool water. Add the tea, vinegar, oil, and peppercorns. Cook on High for about an hour then turn to Low for another 8-10 hours. Remove eggs and cool in ice water.
*You can make these on the stove top: in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to very very low, cover the pot well and simmer for 6 hours, adding water as needed to cover the eggs.