Here's a two-person version of the classic New Orleans sandwich, made with oysters that have been painted with mustard before frying. The oysters are perfectly delicious by themselves or served with any number of sauces. But this sandwich garnished with homemade tartar sauce makes a wonderful lunch.
Make Ahead: The first 6 ingredients of the tartar sauce create a mayonnaise base that can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. See VARIATIONS, below. The finished tartar sauce is best assembled just before serving.
- For the tartar sauce
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup peanut oil, or a blend of peanut and olive oils
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon (1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle cubes
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced onion or shallot
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil, parsley or dill
- For the sandwiches
- 1 15-by-3-inch loaf French or Italian bread (may substitute 2 hoagie rolls)
- 1 pint shucked oysters, drained
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/3 cup Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal or all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Iceberg lettuce, either leaves or shredded, for garnish
For the tartar sauce: Combine the mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, if using (to taste), and egg in a blender; puree on HIGH for about 15 seconds.
With the motor running, add a few drops of oil at a time, then begin adding in a slow drizzle until all of the oil has been used to form a creamy mayonnaise.
Stop to scrape down the sides of the blender with a flexible spatula, then add the lemon juice. Blend quickly to incorporate. Taste and correct the seasoning as necessary. (At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week; see VARIATIONS, below.)
Add the sweet pickle cubes, capers, onion or shallot and fresh herbs, stirring to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the sandwich: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place a wire (cooling) rack on a baking sheet, then place the sheet and rack in the oven.
Split the bread lengthwise and scoop out most of the fluffy center from the loaf. Place the bread in the oven to warm through (not on the rack).
Use paper towels to pat the oysters dry.
Place the flour, mustard and cornmeal in 3 separate shallow bowls or plates. Preheat about 1/2 inch of oil in a deep skillet, saute pan or Dutch oven to 365 degrees.
It's best to work with one hand in the food and one hand food-free. Dip the oysters into the bowl of flour to coat them lightly, shaking off any excess. Place in the mustard, using a pastry brush to evenly coat the oysters with the mustard. Use tongs to transfer the mustard-coated oysters to the bowl of corn flour or all-purpose flour, and turn to coat evenly.
When the oil has reached 365 degrees, add about 6 oysters at a time and fry for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side, until golden brown all over; do not crowd the skillet. Transfer to the rack in the oven as the oysters are done.
When ready to serve, use the tartar sauce (to taste) to slather the inside surfaces of the bread. Add the lettuce.
Place the just-fried oysters in the sandwich. Cut in half crosswise. Serve immediately.
VARIATIONS: The first 6 ingredients of the tartar sauce are actually a blender mayonnaise that can be varied by using different oils. The leftover oil from jars of sun-dried tomatoes makes an orange-colored mayonnaise that is delicious on crab cakes. Mayonnaise made with greenish, basil-infused oil is delicious with tomatoes. Tartar sauce and remoulade are traditional variations used with fried dishes.
Adapted from "The Fearless Frying Cookbook," by John Martin Taylor (Workman, 1997).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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