Panko-fried Oyster Po’ Boys

Ah the glory of Christmas vacation… A time to relax, reflect on a delicious Christmas dinner prepared by yours truly, and watch lots of trashy television (George, you are NOT the father!)

If Santa was kind to you, you too got 100 North Sea oysters harvested just days before Christmas and are spending your leisure time sipping martinis and wondering just how to prepare your dinner. For tonight:

Panko-fried Oyster Po’ Boys with Chipotle Mayo
Makes 4 Po’ Boys 

40 oysters (ten per sandwich)
flour for dredging, about 1 cup
1 egg
1 cup milk
panko* for dredging, about 1 cup
Vegetable oil for frying
4 soft hero rolls
1 head Boston bib lettuce
Chipotle mayo (recipe follows)

For the Oysters:
Shuck the oysters and drain the liquor, reserve the liquid for fish stock, white clam sauce, or something else that needs some briny goodness (perhaps a martini?)

Set up your standard breading procedure:
In one dish, place your flour. In the second dish, beat your egg lightly with the milk. In a third dish, place your panko, assembly-line style. This is known as “standard breading procedure.”

Bread your oysters:
Lightly dredge the oysters, one at a time, in flour so that just a light coating adheres to the entire mollusk. Dunk in the egg/milk bath and let the excess egg run off, making sure that egg fully coats all the flour and there are no dusty spots left. Finally, dredge the oysters in panko and set on a parchment-lined pan in a single layer (a cookie sheet works great.) 

Fry your oysters:
Set your oven to 200° and place an ink-free brown paper bag directly on the oven rack.  

Heat vegetable oil in a pan to 325°. The oil should be deep enough that the oysters float above the bottom. Don’t go crazy with the oil. You’ll flip the oysters halfway through and you’ll have all that oil to dispose of when you are done**. You’ll know that the oil is hot enough when you touch it… Just kidding! Drop a few bits of panko in and it should immediately sizzle lightly. A candy thermometer works great, just don’t let it touch the bottom of the pot, you want the temperature of the oil, not the pot.

Have a slotted spoon or fish spatula at the ready. Drop in the oysters a few at a time, depending on the circumference of your pan. Fewer is better and you don’t want them touching each other. Allow oysters to cook on one side until golden. The time will depend on a lot of factors. Don’t walk away. When the edges are lightly golden, flip, cook the second side until it too is golden and remove the batch to the oven. Brown paper bags are great at absorbing excess oil. Repeat until all oysters are cooked.

For the Chipotle (chi-POTE-lay) Mayo
1 egg yolk (or two, or three depending on how eggy you like your mayo.)
salt
1 T water
1 T white or champagne vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced chipotle peppers (they come in a can, usually found with the taco fixins. Careful! They’re spicy. You can also use just the juice they come packed in)

In a large bowl, place your egg yolk. Add about a 1/2 tsp of salt, the water and the vinegar. Using a whisk, mix everything together. Then, slowly dribble in the vegetable oil, whisking constantly until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture looks like, well, mayo. Stir in the minced peppers and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Assemble:
Slice a roll lengthwise. Slather both cut sides with mayo. Line with lettuce leaves. Place about 10 oysters inside, fold closed and cut crosswise. Repeat three more times. 

Any leftover mayo can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge up to one month.

*Panko bread crumbs are untoasted white bread crumbs from Japan. You could use regular bread crumbs, seasoned bread crumbs, crushed cornflakes or rice crispies. We like panko for this job. Most supermarkets carry them with either the bread crumbs or the asian food.

**My grandmother used to keep an old coffee can with lid in the freezer, dumping in excess cooking fat until it was full, then pitching the frozen can on trash night.

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