Posts Tagged 'Seafood'

Fried Oysters

Fried Oysters

In honor of health care reform passing last night, I thought we should eat some fried foods.  That may be the best form of socializing risks that I know of.

In reality, I had bought some shucked oysters at the farmer’s market and had already been planning to fry them.  We’ve been lucky that a seafood vendor has been attending the farmer’s market.  Initially, they had only agreed to attend during the winter.  Given the quality of their products (particularly, the rock fish), to encourage them to continue attending as well as to eat more seafood, I decided to try and buy at least one thing from them every week.  Last week was clam chowder. This week, at Angela’s encouragement, was fried oysters.

Despite being from and currently living in the Chesapeake Bay area, I’ve had little experience with oysters.  My parents don’t like them (or at least think they don’t), so I never ate them growing up.  My first experience with them was at a local restaurant; from there, I was hooked. Angela’s obsession started after eating a fried oyster topped burger in Boston.

I also must admit that the recipe I use for frying oysters comes from a New Englander. In my defense, my lack of Chesapeake Bay cookbooks not withstanding, it’s really quite good. It’s also said to be a “southern style” fry mix. And while most Marylanders would probably put Old Bay on the oysters, it would probably overpower the mild taste of the sweet oysters I’ve been buying.

I like to serve fried oysters with french fries.  If I’m taking the time to start deep frying, I might as well make some french fries while I’m at it.  Plus, it makes a convenient “one pot” meal.  If you want to make french fries, I’d suggest cooking them before the oysters.  The oysters cook very quickly and can add odd flavors to the french fries.

For the dredge, don’t use a very coarse cornmeal (i.e. polenta); it will make the oysters too gritty.  However, I would recommend a stone-ground cornmeal if at all possible.

For the frying, I like to setup two half-sheet pans, each with a cooling rack on top.  One sheet pan gets the dredged but uncooked oysters.  The other sheet pan can be used to rest the cooked oysters.

Homemade French Fries

Fried Oysters
Adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food

1 half-pint shucked oysters
2 cups buttermilk
4-6 cups peanut oil or enough to deep fry

Dredge:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt

  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven to 360°F.
  2. In a bowl, put the buttermilk.  In another bowl, mix together the dredge ingredients.  Dredge each oyster, first through the buttermilk, then through the dry ingredients.  Set aside.
  3. Deep fry the oysters at 360°F until they are lightly browned and cooked through.  Initially, the oil will boil very heavily, when the oil subsides and boils lightly, the oysters are done (the change is distinct).
  4. Remove from the oysters from the deep fryer and allow to drain for a minute.  Season the oysters with salt.
  5. Serve immediately with cocktail sauce.

Serves 2-3.

Cocktail Sauce
Adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food

12 oz. Heinz chili sauce
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt

  1. Mix all ingredients well.
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Dungeness Crab Bisque

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For my birthday, we got two live Dungeness crabs. Trying not to be wasteful, I put the crab shells in the freezer with the plan on doing something with them. It took me about two months, but I finally found the time and inclination to actually use them. So, I decided on crab bisque.

I did, however, have a little bit of a problem finding a recipe for it. Most recipes seem to think you’ve got some live or at least uncooked crabs that you’re planning to make into soup. To me, this is more than a bit wasteful. Why use rather expensive uncooked crabs when you can instead use left-overs (plus that’s what I had). A lot of the recipes (including Julia Child’s) were really for lobster bisque with brief instructions on how to modify it for crab or shrimp. Which really isn’t that big of a deal but it’s easier for me if I’m making the intended recipe (particularly for something I’ve never made before).

In defense of the internet, a quick Google search did lead me to an appropriate recipe. And the recipe worked out pretty well. I did need to cook the stock for a bit longer than the recipe specified; it was pretty weak when I tasted it after the proscribed cooking time. I may have also added too much cayenne pepper (or at least that’s what she-who-must-be-obeyed said).

Now, I had never had crab bisque before so it’s hard to compare it’s quality. It tasted pretty good to me but it would probably work better as a first course than as a whole meal (of course we opted for it as a meal as I’m too lazy to make more than one labor intensive thing at a time). The consistency was also a little different as I opted not to strain it so there were chunks of rice and shallots and whatnot in it. It still was pretty tasty.

And, in my defense, the soup looked like that in real life. How do you go about making pictures of crab bisque look appetizing?

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Dungeness Crab Bisque
Adapted from Simply Recipes (in turn adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews)

2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup diced shallots
1/2 cup dry vermouth
4 cups crab stock
1/4 cup white rice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup cooked crab meat, cleaned
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
salt
cayenne pepper

  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vermouth, crab stock, white rice, and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. Remove from the heat.
  3. Add the crab meat to the soup. Working in batches, purée the soup to the desired consistency. Return the soup to the pot.
  4. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until the soup has thickened slightly. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in a bowls.

Serves 2 to 4.

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Crab Stock
Adapted from Simply Recipes (in turn adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews).

4-6 cups crab shells, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into large chunks
a bouquet garni made up of several parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 12-15 peppercorns and 1 bay leaf
salt

  1. In a stock pot, place the crab shells and add water until it comes 1 inch above the top of the shells.
  2. Place the stock pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and maintain a slow simmer for 1 hour. Skim the surface of the stock to remove scum.
  3. After the stock stops to produce scum, add the vermouth, onion, carrot, celery, and boquet garni. Continue to simmer for 1 hour more.
  4. Drain the stock through a cheese-cloth lined strainer. Taste the stock for strength. If it’s not strong enough, boil the stock until it reaches the desired strength.
  5. Season the stock with salt to taste.

Makes 2-3 quarts of stock.