Legend has it that the Hangtown Fry originated in present-day Placerville, Calif., a gold rush mining town once known as "Hangtown" for the number of claim-jumpers and cheats subjected to swift frontier justice. Those who struck it rich were glad to spend their gold on expensive commodities such as fresh eggs, bacon, mushrooms and oysters.
One story has an unfortunate desperado requesting this skillet dish as a final meal before his trip to the gallows.
Nowadays, too often Hangtown Fry is little more than an omelet with oysters and a couple of pieces of bacon on top. It's actually more of a frittata.
- 12 shucked oysters
- 1/2 cup flour, for dredging
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into julienne strips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 4 button mushrooms, quartered
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Pat each oyster dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Carefully dredge each oyster in the seasoned flour and set aside.
In an 8-inch omelet pan or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes, until all of the strips are evenly browned and the fat has been rendered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Drain the excess fat from the skillet, leaving just enough to coat the bottom, and return the pan to medium-high heat. Place the oysters, one by one, in the hot bacon fat and brown for 1 minute on each side. Transfer the fried oysters to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
Add the olive oil to the same skillet. When it is hot, add the diced potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and cook the potatoes for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until they are nicely browned. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onions begin to brown and the mushrooms are tender.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the eggs and water until thoroughly blended. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the beaten eggs to the skillet. Using a heat-resistant rubber spatula, gently lift the eggs from the skillet as they cook, allowing the uncooked eggs to flow underneath. Repeat this every few seconds until most of the eggs begin to solidify. Sprinkle the bacon and fried oysters on top of the eggs.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the eggs are fully cooked, puffed up around the edges and brown. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Russell Cronkhite, a chef and cookbook author.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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