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Fried Oyster Po’boys

Throughout Louisiana, a po’boy, a soft French roll stuffed to the brim with the hot filling of your choice, is considered the best of all possible sandwiches. You can make it with spicy sausages or sliced roast beef dripping with gravy, but deep-fried oysters are what put this sandwich on the map.

Ingredients:

For the rémoulade:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (purchased, or see recipe at left)
  • 1 Tbs. minced cornichons
  • 1 Tbs. nonpareil capers, rinsed
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 tsp. spicy brown mustard, preferably Creole
  • 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced 
  •  
  • 1 lb. shucked oysters
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian or Spanish 
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • Canola oil for deep-frying
  • 4 soft French or Italian rolls, split
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce for serving
  • Tomato slices for serving

Directions:

To make the rémoulade, in a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, cornichons, capers, parsley, tarragon, mustard, anchovy paste and garlic until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Meanwhile, drain the oysters in a sieve, then rinse well. In a food processor, process the cornmeal until finely ground, about 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl, add the flour, salt, paprika, basil, thyme, black pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper, and whisk to combine. In another bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended.

Pour oil to a depth of at least 3 inches into a large, heavy saucepan and heat over high heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Preheat an oven to 200°F.

Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. A few at a time, dip the oysters into the eggs, then toss in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

Set a large wire rack on another baking sheet and place near the stove. In batches to avoid crowding, carefully slip the oysters into the hot oil and deep-fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the fried oysters to the rack and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining oysters.

Remove the oysters from the oven and turn on the broiler. Place the rolls, split side up, on a baking sheet, and toast in the broiler until lightly crisped, 1 to 2 minutes.

Spread the cut side of each roll half with about 2 tablespoons of the rémoulade. Place an equal number of oysters on the bottom half of each roll, and top with the tomato slices and lettuce. Place the top of the roll on top. Serve at once, passing the remaining rémoulade on the side. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Variation: Not an oyster fan? Substitute 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, for the oysters. Tartar sauce or a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise can stand in for the rémoulade.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009)