Spectacular treats need not always be complicated. This recipe for Fried Oysters is simplicity itself.
You can (and I have) purchase oysters already shucked in refrigerated containers. But fresh from the sea and opened moments before a brief swim in a hell's cauldron of boiling oil, the results soar miles above what we've become accustomed to in restaurants.
Although the old "R" month rule has been kicked to the curb, I maintain colder waters amplify the intensity of oysters' flavor. I keep it old school and wait to ramp up my oyster recipes until fall.
Follow these guidelines and you're guaranteed mind-blowing treats. It's essential to get the freshest oysters and shuck them at the last possible moment. This light, silky batter guarantees optimal results so resist any impulse to reach for the panko or cornmeal. With the oil at 375º, frying time is measured in mere seconds.
A couple of dozen fresh oysters — this batter makes enough for four dozen
3/4 c. flour
1 c. seltzer
oil for frying
salt, lemon wedges, Tabasco
We just did a couple dozen, but this batter could easily accommodate three or four dozen as well.
1. Shuck oysters. Note: there are a lot of shucking knives out there — this simple one purchased at the local seafood shop is the best. Non-branded, it's got a simple wooden handle with a 3" blade. Anything billed as a combo oyster/clam knife will work equally poorly on both. For a closer look at my knife check out this earlier recipe for Oysters with Black Bean Sauce.
2. Into a heavy pot pour about a 2" level of flavorless cooking oil — canola is great. I prefer a deeper pot to a skillet. The higher sides will capture more of the inevitable splatters and also accommodate a clip-on thermometer, which is pretty handy for getting the temperature just right. Heat the oil to 375°. If you find yourself thermometer-less, at this this near-smoking temperature a drop of batter will burst into bubbles.
3. Mix the batter only when the oil is ready to go. Place 3/4 c. flour in a bowl. Pour 1 c. of seltzer into a measuring cup. Pour 1/4 c. of seltzer into the flour and mix to thoroughly moisten into a lump-free paste. Then pour in the remaining seltzer and mix together as quickly as possible. The idea is to retain as much bubbly carbonation as possible. The batter will be thin.
4. Quickly dip the oysters in the batter and slip into the oil. They'll erupt immediately so swoosh them around a bit to separate and cook evenly. After 30 seconds, use a fine sieve to remove them. They need not brown — they're cooked through even while pale beige. Drain on paper towels, salt with a light touch, and serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco sauce on the side.
The ethereal batter ensures the oysters retain their unique jolie laide appeal. The alacrity of the fry ensures a perfect ratio of initial crunch giving way to a juicy tsunami of oysters' minerally goodness. Another plus is the drippy batter creates extra crispy nibbles, a gentle consolation after the oysters themselves have been devoured.
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