GUEVOS HAMINADOS (“GWEH-vos hä-mi-NÄ–thos”) – The word ham in hebrew means “warm”; haminado is a Ladino adjective meaning “warmed.” Far from ordinary, these “warmed eggs” acquire a velvety texture and an intoxicating, smoky onion flavor from a six-hour bath in warm water and onion skins – slow cooking really does make a difference. Besides lending their marvelous flavor, onion skins also act as a natural dye. If the eggshells remain intact, the eggs turn a delicate shade of light brown, like a very pale cup of coffee, and when cracked they take on a striking range of deep reds and unique patterns that suggest marble. It’s a fairly safe bet that the inspiration for dyed Easter eggs began with this custom.
Guevos haminados are one of many Jewish foods that pre-date the Inquisition. Although eggs were commonplace in all cuisines of Medieval Europe, it was well known in Spain that slow-braising whole eggs was a technique unique to the Jews. More than a few conversos were imprisoned or sentenced to death on the basis of their having continued to eat ouevos haminados. 500 years after the expulsion, eggs in general remain an important component of the Ottoman-Sephardic diet (and, I should add, the Spanish diet as well).
Guevos haminados are generally most associated with the Sabbath desayuno (breakfast) and with Passover, when they appear on the Seder plate, but they are a fundamental element of Ottoman-Sephardic cuisine, eaten on their own or incorporated into other dishes – for example, baked into a meatloaf (without the shell, of course).