Sunday, June 2, 2013

The World Was My Oyster But Then I Used The Wrong Fork! A Decadent Duo: Oven Fried Oysters with Beef Tartar and Toast Soldiers

Oscar Wilde once said " The world was my oyster, but then I used the wrong fork!" Oh that Oscar!

Anyway, being home in South Carolina over the holidays and having had oyster stew again at Christmas I have to say my love for all things oyster was again rekindled. On my way back down to Charleston I stopped in at the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar, you know the one with all the surly waiters? Anyway, I decided upon my friend Fred Tessler, of the Denver Tessler's, advice that I should try and have an oyster pan roast for lunch on my way out of town. Well, I have to say...that was disappointing! Totally tasteless pot of creamy "something" with a few sadly shriveled oysters in it! In a word, Yuk!

However, I know that the idea of an oyster "pan roast" actually sounds kind of amazing. I mean it sort of conjures up visions of garlic and herbs and lots of butter. But I am not sure milky tasteless broth should be a part of it. But that's my opinion and who the hell am I. But given that things can be roasted in a pan and that oysters could be one of those things what would that look like? Well I think it should mirror that great classic Charlestonian Creamed Oysters. But let's talk about what other preparations might give you that decadent oyster goodness with out the complement of cream.

OK. Well the first thing you have to remember is that Oysters love rich surroundings much like themselves. I mean why do you think they have that shell around them to begin with? It' to protect them from the less succulent things in the world of course! So what if it were oysters roasted slightly breaded in a pan and then topped with some sort of amazing sauce? Or better yet fried with a amazing side!! What's more low country than that!

Now when I was living in Charleston one of my favorite things to eat were the fried oysters at a place called Vickery's. Vickery's was a restaurant downtown which had a sister restaurant in Atlanta. When the fellas that owed Vickery's in Atlanta decided that they wanted to live near the beach they just found a spot and opened up a branch of their business in Charleston. The spot they found was an old Goodyear tire store and the reconstruction architecture and subsequent design for the place won awards all over the southeast. The place was open and airy with lots of floor to ceiling window doors that opened onto a patio. Hard wood floors, comfy booths and a big rectangular bar and bar area with more booths finished the look and the main dining room  boasted a wall washed over with paint and yet through the paint you could see see the large Goodyear Tire logo which had been on the wall when the building was a tire shop. The food was casual yet different for Charleston at the time. We are talking the 90's. Charleston's food movement was just taking off and the variety that exists today was not present then.

One of my favorite things was the artichoke dip which I have mentioned on my blog. I also loved the fried oyster caesar salad with chopped tomatoes and onions. Vickery's was a local late night hang out and was an open and welcoming place. Amongst the late night crowd many of the city's food and beverage folks would come to unwind after work. You know a place is good when it's the F&B crowds destination.

So as you all know I love rich tasty foods. So when talking about pairing oysters with something I immediately went to that place of "oh a nice bitter greens salad with a sharp dressing would be nice". But then thought ,"wait no you want a dipping sauce that's nice a creamy and cool and sharp with that. So in lieu of putting them with a salad per say or in a cream sauce like the folks with the pan roast did, what if they were paired with another rich food that could complement and yet stand up to their overall decadent nature. In general if you were to fry something its best if you have a picante element or a tangy sauce like tartar or remoulade to complement it. However, it's interesting to note that both those sauces have a rich element to them as well.

It was then when I thought about beef tartare as a complement. I mean it's rich, it's got vinegar and mustard and tang, it's decadent, it's perfect! My love for the tartare of the beef began at another now gone by the wayside Charleston restaurant Marianne's! Known for their late night menu this gem of a place featured old school decor styled with oil paintings and guided mirrors. High ceilings and soft lighting and candle glow played with your eyes and the song stylings of a woman playing the piano and singing and eclelctic mix of Patsy Klein and Gershwin songs made it all somehow perfect. The menu was Franco based but with definite Americano touches. The late night menu featured egg dishes and steak frites as well as a beef tartare I loved.

So that is where the beef tartare with fried oysters came from. My love of decadent duos! So without further adieu I give you my home recipe for this. Mind you beef tartare is served raw so you must take extra care in preparing it. You should ask your butcher to pick the meat for you. Just let them know what you are using it for. And make sure everything is clean and sanitized. I have never had a problem making this at home. Oh and you will notice that this recipe does not include any frying, that's because it's really messy in a small apartment, so I "fry" mine in the oven. Don't worry, they are still really good! Enjoy Ya'll.

The Classic Beef Tartare

3 medium oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional, adjust salt if added), rinsed and mince
2 teaspoons brined capers, drained and slightly chopped
3 teaspoons really sharp Dijon mustard
2 large coddled egg yolks ( boil eggs for exactly 1 min then cool)
10 ounces USDA prime beef tenderloin, cut into small dice, covered, and refrigerated
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion or shallots
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat parsley leaves
3 teaspoons really good olive oil
1 teaspoon good quality mayonaise ( I like Dukes)
3 dashes hot sauce of choice
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon crushed chile flakes

Combine the anchovies, capers, and mustard in a metal bowl. Using a fork mash ingredients until evenly combined; mix in egg yolks.

Use a wooden spoon and mix remaining ingredients into mustard mixture until thoroughly combined. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

The Best Oven Fried Oysters 
( based on a award winning recipe my roommate from Michigan gave me)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 eggs

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2/3 cup grated Romano cheese

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 pint shucked oysters or 2 cans (8 ounceseach) whole oysters, drained

3 to 4 Tablespoons cooking oil

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper and cayenne pepper. 

In another  bowl, whisk eggs. 

In a third bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and garlic salt

Coat oysters with flour mixture, then dip in eggs, and coat with crumb mixture. Place on a greased  baking sheet

drizzle with oil.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

To serve mound the tartare on 4 to six plates depending on how large a portion you want.

Nestle in the oysters on one side and top with a "salad" of lightly dressed parsley and pickled red onion

(You can pickle red onion easily by slicing thin ringlets and soaking them in a little vinegar and hot water solution for about a half hour.)

Serve toasts soldiers ( long squared off toast points) on the side

Enjoy ya'll! 



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