Just a few days ago, as I was camping on the Washington coast, I was awoken with a cruel reality. It wasn’t the smell of my sand-covered dog who was snoring loudly at the foot of my sleeping bag, nor was it the morning light beating down on the roof of my tent. No, the cruel reality is one that I suspect many of you are coming to grips with now too–the realization that those long, lazy days of summer are nearly over. Days will soon be shorter. The leaves will soon begin to change.
Actually, this was the impetus for taking a camping trip in the first place. My husband and I wanted to push the reality of this Fall’s work demands as far out of sight (and mind) as possible, at least for a few days. And so we packed up our car, powered down the cell phones, and headed north for a few days, ready to soak up all that the beautiful Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Our first stop was in the coastal city of Astoria in western Oregon where we were spoiled by the folks at Buoy Beer Co with an amazingly creative variety of fried oysters topped with jalepeno jelly as well as 16 different tastings of beer. Eating oysters and drinking beer while watching enormous cargo ships pass gently up and down the Columbia River is not a bad way to spend an afternoon, it turns out. And that was just the beginning of our oyster- and beer- filled weekend. When we finally hit the road again, on our way to Cape Disappointment, we could barely think of eating anything more. (Though, I must admit, no one has ever been known to starve to death when camping with me. I tend to think of camping as just another excuse to cook delicious food. I also appreciate the challenge and creativity that comes with doing it all in the wilderness over a campfire.)
And, despite our aching bellies, we powered through with our original plan and continued on to the next stop on the way to our campsite destination–a little patch of shallow water tucked away on a peninsula between the Willapa Bay and the Pacific Ocean, where oysters are bountiful. When we arrived, we each pulled on our boots and gloves, got our cute new oyster shucker ready for its first day of action, and cautiously waded out into the cold, murky waters. The mud was thick and it stuck to our boots as we moved through the water, making the two-hundred foot trek feel more like a thousand foot crawl. With each step, we could hear a little pop as we fought with the mud to release the soles of our boots. I held the camera high above my head, doing everything in my power to keep my usual clumsiness at bay so that I could capture this special moment in photos without ruining my good camera and covering myself head to toe in mud.
When we finally reached the only oyster bed in sight, we got to work gathering, working quickly to beat the tides that were coming in rapidly. And after just 15 minutes, we each had our arms full of live oysters. We waded back to the dry(-ish) land where we set down our loot and got to shucking.
Funny thing…As it turns out, I suck at shucking. (Say that five times fast.) I tend to be much better at the eating part of it. But thankfully, I married someone who is pretty damn good at popping open my favorite shellfish and who isn’t too keen on raw oysters himself, so he was kind enough to shuck while his perpetually-hungry wife devoured.
And I can honestly say, I’ve never had such amazing oysters in my life. I’m not sure if it was because we were eating the fruits of our labor (everything seems to taste better when you catch it yourself) or if it was because they were still wearing the beautifully briny marinade of their natural habitat when I sucked them down. All I know, is I could eat those fresh beauties every day of my life and be happy girl.
And even on that cruel morning at the end of our trip, when I realized it was time to return back to reality, the one thing that cheered me up was the idea of stopping for more oysters. So, on the ride home, we picked up a couple dozen fresh oysters to take with us.
For this batch, though, I decided to prepare them “Louisiana-style” for my husband, who had so kindly shucked for me just a few days earlier, in a kind of South meets Pacific Northwest version of an oyster po-boy, which I call…a sandwich I fried the oysters in a cornmeal batter until golden and crispy, plopped several on top of two slices of bread, and then slathered them with mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, and tomatoes fresh from the garden.
For those who are wondering why I haven’t just dubbed this an oyster “po-boy,” po-boys are marked by their unique use of a New Orleans style french bread, which can only be found, you guessed it, in New Orleans. But don’t discount this hybrid version just yet. Like the song says, sometimes a change will do you good.
Makes: 2-4 sandwiches
- Canola oil, enough to fill up to 1.5-2-inches in your skillet/dutch oven
- 1 pint of small raw oysters
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 cup of corn meal
- 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1/2 tablespoon of ground black pepper
- bread, of your choice
- Mayonnaise, ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, and hot sauce, for topping
Fill a cast iron skillet or dutch oven with canola oil, so that it comes about 1.5 to 2 inches up the sides. Heat over medium high heat, until oil begins to get a shimmery look to it (that’s when it is ready for frying).
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until scrambled. In another medium-sized bowl, mix together the AP flour, corn meal, and spices.
Carefully dip each oyster first into the eggs, then into the flour mixture, being careful to shake off excess flour. Add oysters to the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to overcrowd the oysters or else they won’t cook evenly. As a point of reference, in my 10-inch dutch oven, I was working in batches of 5. Remove with a frying spatula or a slotted spoon and set on a plate lined with paper towels while you finish the remaining oysters.
Once all of the oysters are golden and fried, build the sandwich by slathering each piece of bread with your desired amount of mayonnaise, ketchup, and hot sauce. Add the lettuce and tomatoes. Finally, add the oysters, slice in half, and enjoy.
My preferred brand of hot sauce for a fried oyster sandwich is Crystal, but any Louisiana hot sauce will do!