January 08, 2008

Fried Oysters

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
-- The apostle Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, 13:11.

Of course, Paul was talking about far more weighty matters. (Although, around the Chesapeake, folks tend to defend their feelings about oysters with near Gospel-like fervor.) Specifically, Paul was reminding the believers in Corinth that we currently have a partial view of everything, but a day is coming when we'll see things in a more complete way, thereby having a much clearer picture of things.

This passage from the New Testament reminds me that I ought to expect children to be children. And had I been a more attentive child myself, when the time came, I would have been much more cautious about how I introduced my own children to the crown jewel of Chesapeake seafood, -- the oyster. Nonetheless, one day years ago, in my small kitchen in an apartment outside of San Diego, I managed to score a half-dozen raw oysters, which I stood over the sink and shucked, slurping each off it's own built-in serving spoon. My youngest daughter begged me to try one, so I let her. (mistake) She promptly spit it into the garbage, which irritated me, because they were quite hard to come by.
My own father never let me have oysters at that age, and certainly not raw on the half-shell. When he finally decided I was old enough to try them, (about 13 - 14) he introduced me to the fried oyster sandwich. Two large, fried oysters, on two slices of pasty white bread with catsup. I was instantly in love with this fantastic food. Crunchy, delicate briny flavor, the sweetness of the catsup, all playing together in a maritime symphony. It was absolutely heavenly. I started ordering fried oysters whenever they were available. From there I graduated to oyster stew, oyster casseroles, and eventually, -- raw oysters on the half shell.
So, -- feeling somewhat repentant at the way I introduced my daughter to this incredibly delightful food, and concerned that I had turned her forever against our regionally revered bi-valve, I sought to redeem myself this weekend. I picked up a pint of shucked oysters from my local fish market, and fried the lot of them. Oysters are sold (around here) in two sizes; Selects (large) and Standards (smaller). For frying, I always use the selects. They're a dollar more a pint. I told my daughter how I had an oyster sandwich, and she decided to make her own. Very similar, only instead of white bread, she used a hot dog roll, and she added mayonnaise in addition to catsup. (she is, after all, from California, where the state condiment is Mayo.) And she actually liked it! So I'm hopeful that she'll progress to the point that she'll actually enjoy, even crave this wonderful creature as she continues to grow, and eventually put away childish things. (but not all childish things)
So, here is the recipe, very simple -- that set me on the road to redemption.

Fried Oysters

1 Pt. Select oysters, drained
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1/4 cup corn meal
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. water

Mix the eggs & water in a bowl, and set aside.
Crush the crackers, and mix the cracker crumbs with the corn meal in a food processor until you have fine cracker crumbs.
One by one, dip an oyster into the egg wash, then cover with the cracker / corn meal mixture, then put into hot oil.
Fry until golden brown, then drain them on some paper towels.

It depends on the size of your pan, but I was frying 4 at a time. Probably could have done 6, but you don't want to crowd the pan. Give yourself some room. Hope you enjoy them.

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