Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What to do with a quarter peck of oysters

After I got back from Jerry D's of Harford Road with mah urshters, I put the oysters, bag and all, in a large plastic bowl and shoved 'em into the fridge. Later on I flipped through John Shields' excellen Chesapeake Bay Cooking, even though the oysters were from North Carolina, which is almost close enough.

Lo and behold, the perfect idea! Chincoteague Single-Fried Oysters! The folks in Chincoteague just get Misty over their oysters.* And why not? It's like, well, like us getting misty over oysters, or crabs even more. Sadly I cannot reprint the recipe, but John says that the version in his cookbook comes from a local authority, Mrs. Alma Madanick, a "shining star of the Chincoteague culinary world" (Shields p. 72). I think I can at least say that the recipe calls for equal parts cracker meal (like crushed saltines) and flour for every pint of oysters. I had a quarter peck, which amounts to about 4 1/2 pints (a little over 2 quarts, or a half gallon - about 2.5 liters for those of you keeping track). That's before the oysters were shucked.

I didn't realize just how difficult it is to shuck an oyster, but after a while I was prying open one every minute. Yes, that's slow, okay? I ended up with about 12 to 15 oysters all told. All the while, two things ran through my head:

  1. I am actually taking a life here. Much like I am when I steam crabs. Part of the circle of life I guess. Just like what'll happen to all of us when the zombies come to get us...
  2. Damn, I should eat one of these on the half shell right now!
I don't know why I didn't. I guess the thought of fried oysters was too enticing to make me eat them raw. God knows I would have been fine with it.

I also got about a quarter cup of the oyster liquor (don't ask me what fraction of a peck that is), and it is sitting in my freezer waiting for future uses.

As for the oysters themselves: I changed the recipe just a wee bit, reducing it to two parts flour, one part each cracker meal and corn meal, plus a generous sprinkling of Old Bay (of course). They were still very delicious, fried for three to five minutes in a shallow pan of hot corn oil until golden brown. Paired with those deviled green beans that I found earlier I was very happy. Sure, maybe next time I'll save myself the trouble and use pre-shucked oysters. But at least I now know I don't have to.

Dem urshturs, befoor...

...and after.

And in case you wondered what deviled green beans look like, wonder no more. They really are very good, sweet, tangy and savory all at the same time.


Shields, John. Chesapeake Bay Cooking (1998: Broadway Books, New York, NY)

* Please tell me you got that reference.


Kitt said...

Delicious! And yes, got the reference. I was mad for those books as a kid.

Bravo on the shucking skills.

Anonymous said...

That looks really good.

John said...

Kitt and Leslie Ann: It was delicious, and thanks. I know the disturbing allure of frying things - I just have to do it in moderation.