Friday, December 16, 2011


Oysters are a delicacy almost everywhere in this country, I think. But they are native to the Chesapeake Bay region. My dad has floaters full of oysters tied off of his dock, so if I really have a terrible craving for these shellfish, I can drive over, walk down to the dock, pull out a dozen and put them in a bucket of clean water overnight then shuck them out the next day. Or, I can do what most folks around here do, and go down to the fish market and buy a jar (pint or quart) for about the cost of labor someone was paid to shuck 12 to 15 of them, plus a bit for the shop.

Now, I'm not over fond of raw oysters but I love them most any other way you can prepare them. I am very fond of them roasted in the shell and dribbled with a bit of melted butter,  lemon and sea salt. I love oyster stew. But my most favorite is fried and served up in a Po-Boy sandwich.

Now, to make a Po-Boy in the past, I would have just breaded them up with any old egg and some House of Autry seasoned corn flour and fried them in a bit of canola oil and served them on white bread toast with some mayonnaise and hot sauce. I might even have topped it off with some onion slices and a bit of tomato and some lettuce if I was feeling like I wanted a healthy thing to eat.

But now, I know better.

So, how do I convert this old favorite to WAP standards?

First thing is to make a batch of sourdough bread rolls. This requires a couple of days preparation but because I now keep a sourdough starter and sprouted flour on hand, it's not quite as discouraging as it might have been. With just the two of us in the house, I've taken to making a batch of rolls (which are really just small loaves of bread) and freezing extras. This makes for quick sandwich meals when we need it.

Oyster season, runs from late October if the water gets cold enough, until late March. You want the water from which your oysters are harvested to be as cold as possible and, frankly, I think right around Winter Solstice until late February is best. If ice is forming in the morning in the animal's watering bowls, it's cold enough.

I make my own bread and butter pickles in the summer at the height of cucumber season, so I have jars and jars of them in my pantry. I grow spinach on a windowsill throughout most of the winter to add a leaf or two to soups, salads or sandwiches. . 

I make my own mayonnaise from olive oil, flax oil whey, and pastured eggs with a little mustard and salt. I also make fermented catsup. From this I make a lovely little pink dressing with two tablespoons of mayo, a tablespoon of pickle juice, a little hot sauce and a teaspoon of catsup and a tiny dab of fermented horseradish sauce.

Okay, so, this very convoluted, but once you have all of the above together, you want to soak some non-GMO organic corn meal in a little water and yogurt or kefir. It will make a bit of a paste. Let this sit for several hours or overnight. Season the cornmeal paste with some paprika, sea salt and black pepper. I also like to add a touch of Cayenne Pepper but it's not necessary unless you like it hot.  In a separate bowl, whisk a large pastured egg (you will need two to do a whole dozen oysters, but use them one at a time). Drag an oyster through the cornmeal, then dip it in the egg. Yes, I know that seems backwards, but the egg makes a coating that holds it together somehow. Let it rest for a bit while your lard heats up. Yes, I said lard. Nothing else makes this work right, in my opinion. You want your fat to be about an inch deep in a fairly deep pan to keep the spattering to a minimum. Don't turn the heat up to high or you risk a fire. Just over medium is usually just right. When you hear it crackle, put in your first oyster and cook on one side for about 3 minutes until just turning brown. Roll it over in the fat to cook the other side. This side will only take about 2 minutes (if that). Cook them about 4 or 5 at a time. Don't crowd them. Hold in warm oven when done until the whole batch is cooked.

To assemble your sandwiches: Slice open your roll. Dig out a little bread top and bottom. Spread your sauce on top and bottom (inside). Put a few spinach leaves with stems removed. Add a layer of bread and butter pickles or pickled onions or both. Top that with thin slices of tomato if you can find a nice one in December, if not, add some fermented purple cabbage. Then put a layer of 3 large or 4 small fried oysters. Sprinkle with fermented hot sauce Eat while hot.

Even my husband, who does not like oysters, loves these and will eat two helpings.

Serve with a slightly sweeter wine or a good dark beer to off set the spice. 

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