October 31, 2016
We had a freak snowstorm last week. It seemed to come out of nowhere; one minute it was fall, the next we were in high winter; wind blowing, snow blasting out of the sky and piling up on the roads.
I’d planned a trip to the grocery store, but that was out of the question. The plows weren’t out, the driveway impassible, the roads slippery. Fortunately, I had some oysters sitting in the refrigerator. I’d planned on eating them raw, but now I changed my mind.
Here’s the thing about fried oysters; they’re one of the foods that truly reward the home cook. Eaten just seconds out of the fryer they give you the sense that you’re eating clouds. Order them in a restaurant, and in the time it takes to reach your table they lose much of their magic.
Shopping list: 1 pint oysters, 1 pint buttermilk, 2 cups cornmeal
Staples: flour, salt, oil.
You could shuck your own oysters, but unless you’re really an expert that makes the entire process a whole lot harder. I open my own oysters to eat on the half-shell, but when I’m frying oysters I buy them pre-shucked.
Carefully drain the oysters, and put them in 2 cups of buttermilk for about 10 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or a silpat pad. Mix 2 cups of cornmeal with 2 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt. Pick up each oyster, shake it a bit, allowing the buttermilk to drip off before plunking it into the cornmeal mixture; toss it about so it’s coated on all sides and place it on the lined baking sheet. Do it with the next oyster, and the next….
In a deep pot heat at least 2 inches of oil until it registers 375 on a thermometer. Pick up an oyster, shake it to remove excess breading and plunk it into the oil. Fry for about a minute and a half until just golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. You should be able to fry 6 to 8 oysters at a time. Bring oil back to 375 before adding a new batch.
Sprinkle with salt and serve with plenty of fresh lemons. Some people like tartar sauce or remoulade with their oysters, but I think that masks the delicate flavor.