10.10.2011

Fried Oysters (and Calamari Steaks)

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Since I've lived on my own, with the husband that is (a good 6+ years), I've never deep fried anything. Maybe it's because it always seems like a hassle -- so much oil involved -- oil splatter, oil clean up, oil disposal. It could also be that I find it more satisfying to order my fried food while out. But I think it's mainly because my parents cooked fries at home at least once a week, and I've probably had enough fries to last me a lifetime. Now, just so I don't soil their names without a clarification here; my parents made homemade fries, with fresh, thick-cut potatoes. Totally fresh and delicious. But still unhealthy

So last week, I was conflicted when we visited King Fish, and I can across perfect looking Pacific oysters from Washington, for a good price and listed as “ideal for frying”. I gave in. Because if I am going to fry something for the first time in my home, it better be something super deserving and delicious, like an oyster. We also bought calamari steaks and decided to make it a seafood night

I know how frying goes. I've seen it on TV, lots of times. But, when the oil is hot, and you drop your food into it, everything changes. And by that, I mean I panicked. I wasn't coating the oysters fast enough, I was making a mess, and did I mention the oil is really hot? Well, my first oyster browned too quickly, but by oyster three, I had collected myself, gained some confidence, and got the job done. By oyster 10, I was a pro.

Now, here's what I learned from this process:
1) Get a decent size pot. I used the smallest little pot I had, mostly because I only had so much vegetable oil, but this made things difficult.
2) Get help. As you can see from the photos below I looked pretty organized, with my coatings all pretty and lined up. But looks can be deceiving. And two hands were just not enough. And since I had another perfectly capable pair of hands around, I should have asked to use them. It would have just made things easier.
3) Don't be afraid to adjust your temperature. Especially with something like oysters, where you are doing batches, the temperature drops when the cold oysters goes in, so you can increase the heat, initially, then lower it.
4) It's hard to screw up fried food, especially when you use big, plump oysters. These were pretty incredible, and even though I knew not what I was doing, the oysters were delicious, gooey in the middle, perfectly cooked, even by the clueless. And this included my first two "mistake" oysters, which still managed to stay juicy.
I did some research, and decided on a very simple recipe -- flour and cornstarch, eggs (seasoned with salt and pepper), and breadcrumbs (flavored with cumin and chili powder). I used the same coating on the calamari steaks, except that I soaked them first in whole milk, for about 30 minutes. The steaks were sautéed in a pan, while the oysters got the hot oil treatment.
We had quinoa on the side, dressed with preserved lemon juices. The oysters and calamari got a last minute squeeze of fresh lemon, and were incredible juicy and tender, with a nice crispness. And now that I've finally deep fried at home, I would definitely fry oysters again. But I think I'll still go out for chicken and fries.

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