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Purists might argue that freshly shucked and slurped is the only way to truly appreciate oysters, but after giving Kenji's Fried Oysters from the Serious Eats book a go, we're thinking about retiring the mignonette in favor of tartar sauce.
Dipped in an eggy batter and rolled in paprika-spiked flour, these little oysters fry up golden, warmed through but still briny and fresh, not losing one ounce of that oceanic depth. And that tartar sauce? Well, it beats the old mayo-relish mix by miles. Chopped cornichons, capers, lemon, and Worcestershire keep it tart, chunky, and make for the ideal dipping companion for straight-out-of-the-fryer oysters.
Adapted from Serious Eats: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are by Ed Levine and The Serious Eats Team. Copyright © 2011. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved
- For the tartar sauce:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 medium shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup drained capers, minced
- 1/4 cup finely minched cornichons (about 8)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
- For the oysters:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 quarts peanut oil
- 2 dozen freshly shucked oysters, drained
For the tartar sauce: Combine the mayonnaise, shallot, capers, pickles, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and black pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
For the oysters: Whisk together the eggs and 3 tablespoons of the flour in a medium bowl. The mixture should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Add up to 1 additional tablespoon of flour to thicken, if necessary. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup flour, the cornmeal, black pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, and the paprika. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or wok to 350°F.
Add the drained oysters to the egg mixture and turn to thoroughly coat them. Allow the excess batter to drip back into the bowl before the next step. Hold the bowl with the flour mixture in one hand, and, tossing the contents constantly, add the oysters to the flour one at a time with your other hand. The oysters should remain separated inside the bowl with the flour mixture.
Carefully add the oysters to the oil one at a time and fry, agitating constantly, until they are light golden brown and crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and season immediately with salt. Serve immediately with the tartar sauce.