I spent a number of years in the South and thankfully was exposed to a large variety of fresh seafood and Southern traditions like fried turkey or BBQ. Hyvee had Louisiana Bayou shucked oysters today, and French Baguettes were 5 cents is fuel perks, so I decided to give Fried Oyster Po’ boys a shot.
[Tip: Thinking about trying this at home? Please read ahead and start with the sides for a quicker meal. Or read the entire post first before you even think about getting out your ingredients. You’ll thank me.]
We did not cook much seafood at home growing up. My grandfather is allergic (but ironically a master fisherman in his free time) and therefore my mother rarely selected it when constructing our family’s weekly shopping list. Additionally we didn’t fry much, so overall frying and learning to properly cooked seafood have been on my list to master.
For tonight’s experiment I rinsed 1/2 lbs of bayou oysters to ensure there were no bits of shells or grit and then placed them in a bowl with buttermilk. You could skip the buttermilk and opt for egg or beer or pretty much anything wet…but I have found that it is pretty much the best vehicle for adhering your breading agent.
I don’t own a fryer – no worries- I have a 10″ cast iron skillet which is enough space for 8-10 oysters at a time. I placed it over medium high heat, and poured about 3/4 cups of canola oil in, stopping when there was about 1/2 inch of oil in depth as I need the food to essentially float in the oil. You must heat your oil prior to dropping anything in it, as otherwise your battered items will absorb the oil and not brown or crisp properly or even worse, loose their coating altogether.
Louisiana Fish Fry products http://m.louisianafishfry.com/products/Batters-and-Coatings are carried at many grocery stores, and a great time saver. I keep a couple on hand for last minute meals. Tonight it was the seasoned fish fry. So far the lemon fish fry has been the favorite though, especially with shrimp! For the batch I utilized about 1/2 a bag. Supposedly I would have used about 1/6…but I wanted a great crunch, and the buttermilk glue absorbs quite a bit more than the water they suggest on the package instructions.
Once the oil is so hot that anything dropped in immediately starts sizzling. ..I dregged (pulled buttermilk soaked oysters through the batter mixture to coat) and one by one dropped them into the pan getting about 8-10 per batch. It takes 2 minutes or so per side, so about the time you drop the last one, it’s time to flip the first one. I would use one hand for the raw oysters and one for pot and utensil handling, minimizing the number of times you have to wash your hands throughout the process. Since I made 2 1/2 batches, I prepped a tinfoil lined baking sheet with a cooling rack so that the excess oil would drip off during cooling. Also, when all were done, I gave them a bit more color by sticking the whole thing into the oven under the low broiler for 5 minutes. Everyone’s oven in different, so I would recommend turning the light on and checking in constantly to ensure you don’t burn the oysters!
To serve, I sliced the French Baguette into 4 pieces, and then sliced lengthwise. Bread got a layer of mayo, oysters, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and then topped with the other half of bread (also coated with mayo). I added a creole mustard to the 2nd sandwich, but wasn’t sold on the store brand I snagged…too much vinegar.
To round out the meal I made two sides: spicy roasted cauliflower and fried potatoes. If you start these prior to frying the oysters, everything will be ready to serve and hot about the same time. Timing is key when preparing a meal because it allows you to minimize the length of prep by multitasking and assists in creating a meal that arrives at the table all at once.
The cauliflower is a snap. For two servings I took half a head of a fairly small cauliflower leftover from the farmers market 3 weeks ago, cut it into florets and tossed it with a sirachia /melted butter, putting it under the low broiler to cook while I was frying the oysters, which takes about 20 minutes for small bite side pieces. Note: properly stored (not in plastic, and in your crisper drawer) most cauliflower will last up to a month with very little spotting. If there is the pesky black stuff, simply trim it off. Oh, and if you have never heard of sirachia, here is a link: http://www.huyfong.com/no_frames/sriracha.htm
And the fried potatoes were dead easy, because they started with the extra potatoes from Saturday’s Pot Roast. I put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in my 10″ cast iron pan over medium heat, and when it was hot I tossed in 1/2 of a chopped red onion to brown, hit it with a few turns of the pepper mill and then sliced the potatoes from the fridge while the carmelization was starting. Once there is color on the edges of the onion, I added the potatoes to the pan and sprinkled Penzey’s shallot pepper
https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/shallot-pepper-seasoning/c-24/p-453/pd-s, chives and a few more turns of the pepper mill for flavor, and then let them sit WITHOUT stirring for 10 minutes. In order to get the brown delicious crust on the potatoes, it is necessary to let them be. Monitor the temperature however, cast iron is an excellent heat conductor and gets very hot easily. I then flipped them into a pie plate and also put them under the low broiler for 20 minutes. Normally I would opt for leaving them in the skillet, but I needed it to fry the oysters, and prioritized a timely finish vs perfect crust.
The plates looked like this: