August 06, 2008

Fried Oysters Three Ways


Ingredients:
16 oz shucked, raw oysters
2/3 cup Instant Blending Flour*
2/3 cup bread crumbs OR cornmeal OR panko
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon cayenne
chipotle hot sauce
salt
pepper

canola oil for frying

Directions:
Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in a large, shallow skillet, enough to cover the oysters. Meanwhile pour the egg, flour and breadcrumbs (or panko or cornmeal)into separate shallow bowls. Stir the the spices to the breadcrumbs or cornmeal or panko. Stir a few drops of hot sauce into the egg. Dredge each oyster in the flour, then in the egg then the bread crumbs (or cornmeal/panko). Drop the oysters into the hot oil, taking care that they do not overlap or they will stick together. Cook until golden on all sides, about 1 minute. They should float to the top when ready and not need to be flipped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve hot with cocktail or tarter sauce or on a sandwich.





*I used Pillsbury Shake & Blend. Another similar product is Gold Medal Wondra Flour. It is found near regular flour or near gravy mixes. It is very fine and dissolves easily in water (or in this case, doesn't make the oysters too thick with flour). Use all purpose if you have to.


My thoughts:
Fried oysters are quite possibly my favorite food but I had never made them until Monday. Now I am wondering what took me so long! They were super quick to make (even when making them with three different coatings) and they came out really well. Better than when I have had them out actually. Not to mention much cheaper. In the past I stuck to the "only in months with R" rule but hey, these were on sale for only $8 lb so I couldn't resist. There isn't much oystering going in the the Bay* anymore so local oysters are hard to find even during peak months.

I put a call out to the Twitterverse asking about preferred ways of battering and about two-thirds of the respondents were in favor of cornmeal and the remaining responses were divided between traditional bread crumbs and panko. I decided to try them all to see which one I liked the most.

My findings:



Breadcrumbs: Matt and my top choice. They browned evenly and had the perfect amount of breading. Lots of clear, fresh oyster flavor. The only drawback to the breadcrumbs is that when the oyster was was allowed to cool completely it was slightly less crispy than the other cornmeal or panko battered ones. I didn't find this to be much a problem because no one wants to eat cold fried oysters anyway. They were all best fresh from the oil.

Panko: (pictured at the top of the post) The panko covered ones darkened more quickly than the other two but stayed crispy (even when cold) and allowed for a lot of oyster flavor to shine through. It dropped to second place because was difficult to coat the irregularly shaped oysters evenly with the panko. Some panko fell off during the frying. I didn't have this problem when I've fried other seafood using the same technique so I think it is something to do with the dampness of the oysters and their shape. Skipping the initial flour step didn't remedy the situation either. Panko might work better if you used very large, uniform oysters.



Cornmeal: A lot of people were quite adamant about cornmeal being the only acceptable coating for oysters but it was our distinct third favorite. It stayed crisp but the corn flavor was so strong it was hard to tell we were eating an oyster. Still tasty but when I am eating an oyster, I want to know I am eating an oyster!


*If you are interested in learning more about Chesapeake Bay oystering and oyster pirates(!) here's a great 1888 article from the NY Times archives.

20 comments:

  1. Rachel, Oysters in August! -- you are my hero! Fried oysters are among my favorites. Just after raw oysters. I've used buttermilk pancake mix for coating them, but my favorite to date was a 1 to 1 mix of bread crumbs and cornmeal. Although I am going to try the panko. And for a terrific dipping sauce, -- try some srirachi garlic chili sauce mixed into some mayonnaise.

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  2. Ah. Thanks for this analysis. We fried oysters a while back for our po'boys and used cornmeal as a batter. I didn't get a lot of oyster flavour then, but it didn't occur to me that the cornmeal might be the culprit. So it's breadcrumbs next time. . .thanks!

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  3. Do you think it might have worked better with a finer panko? I'll have to try this next time we see oysters at CostCo.

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  4. FranMag- I should have mentioned this in the post but the ones on the other end of the tray (out of the picture range) did have a finer panko. Same story.

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  5. Nice post on frying osyters. I too love frying oysters at home, they are always a hit with my friends. I've always used breadcrumbs, but I do like the texture that cornmeal gives to them.

    What kind of oil do you use for frying? I've tried Canola and Peanut and can't decide if I like one more than the other.

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  6. The seafood guy at my Wed. farmers' market has had oysters all summer (so much for the months with R rule, eh?). Hope he has some today because I can't wait to try this!

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  7. YUMMY, I hate Oysters but these look good enough to eat!

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  8. Oysters are probably the only seafood I haven't tackled. Yours look fabulous!

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  9. Thank you! I was hoping you would do oysters. How did it take me so long to find you, being another Baltimoron?

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  10. Next time, I recommend Saltines, my favorite breading for fried oysters.

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  11. I thought you're only supposed to eat them in months ending in R.


    I second the saltines comment...

    look good though

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  12. Hi Meghan,
    I talked about that in the post! You must have missed it.

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  13. For years I used breadcrumbs for my fried oysters but I am now a panko convert!

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  14. OMgosh. I love this post!!! And I love oysters. I found you through Practical Gourmet. Chargrilled Oysters are on my list to make but I think I am putting it off because I have to shuck them myself since I want to use the shell on the grill.

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  15. Those look so incredible... I would love them... yum... yum... yum...

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  16. In Southern NJ they make fried oysters with bread crumbs, but recently I had them made with corn meal on the East Shore of MD and I wondered if this was a more authentic/traditional style. I really loved them!

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  17. Oyster Girl- I really don't think cornmeal is any more tradtional than bread crumbs. Here is Baltimore, a major oyster town, bread crumbs are used more often.

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  18. 9 months later and i finally tried these:

    http://thatmuchfurtherham.blogspot.com/2009/05/fried-oysters-and-remoulade.html

    Thanks for the tip on the Wondra flour!

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