Cornmeal-Fried Oyster Sandwich with Lemon Tartar Sauce
One of my favorite sandwiches is the classic po’ boy from New Orleans, a hollowed-out baguette heaped up with fried oysters and slathered with tartar sauce. You don’t want bread that’s too dense or heavy or one with too hard a crust because it will make the sandwich difficult to eat. If the bread seems too thick, pull some out of the middle to make room for the oysters. You can make this sandwich on untoasted bread, or you can brush the cut sides with butter and grill them before filling the bread with oysters.
A STEP AHEAD: The cornmeal flour can be made a week in advance and stored, covered, at room temperature. The tartar sauce can be made a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.
IN THE GLASS: Entre-Deux-Mers from Bordeaux, a dry white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon
Total Timeunder 1 hour
Taste and Texturecreamy, herby, savory, spiced
Type of Dishsandwich
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2/3 cup peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped drained capers
- 1½ teaspoons finely chopped red onions
- 1½ teaspoons finely chopped dill pickles
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle juice from the jar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 4½ teaspoons cayenne
- 4½ teaspoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
- 2 dozen Pacific oysters, scrubbed, rinsed, and shucked
- 4 pieces French bread, cut into 6- to 8- inch sandwich lengths
- Butter lettuce leaves
- Peanut oil for frying
To make the tartar sauce, place the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Pulse to combine.
With the processor running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will become thick and emulsified. Add the capers, onions, pickles and their juice, parsley, lemon zest, and Tabasco and pulse to combine.
Remove to a small bowl and set aside, refrigerated.
To make the cornmeal flour, combine the flour, cornmeal, and seasonings in a medium bowl. Set aside.
To panfry the oysters, dredge them in the seasoned cornmeal flour. You can leave them in the bowl of flour until you are ready to panfry them. Shake off any excess flour right before frying.
Set up your sandwiches so they can be assembled as soon as the oysters are fried.
Split the French bread rolls lengthwise. For each sandwich, spread the tartar sauce generously on both sides of the bread. Line the top half of the roll with lettuce leaves.
You will need to use two or more non-stick sauté pans or a large sauté pan. Cover the bottom of each sauté pan with a thin layer (1/8 inch) of peanut oil. Over high heat, heat the oil until very hot.
Fry the oysters in the hot oil on both sides until golden brown and firmed up, about 4 minutes total. Drain the oysters on paper towels.
ON THE PLATE: Place 6 fried oysters on the bottom half of each roll. Put the lettucelined half on top to form a sandwich. Serve immediately.
2001 Tom Douglas