In New Orleans, dining out on Friday nights during Lent at any restaurant that serves seafood is, for lack of a better term, a sport. That’s because the crowds are large, the waits are long and the weather is oftentimes questionable (a big issue when you’re forced to wait out in a shell parking lot). A finely tuned playbook, complete with the abilities, expectations and limitations of each person in your party, is a must. So are sandwich bags full of Cheerios (if you have little ones), cell phones with fun games (if you have middle ones) and a padded stadium seat or a tripod stool–like you see at golf tournaments–(if you have old ones). You need to keep everyone happy and comfortable while waiting. Otherwise, disappointment, anger and temper tantrums will undoubtedly overshadow this solemn evening of observance.
Many locals embrace this pre-Easter chaos by bellying up to the bar and enjoying a cocktail, or three, before they’re seated. Some try to avoid the madhouse by sending one relative ahead of time to put the family name on the wait list. Others attempt to manipulate the system by cutting in front of unsuspecting patrons in the hostess line or fibbing that “Uncle Vick’s” gonna pass out due to low blood sugar levels if he doesn’t eat soon. These are praying people mind you. But trust me, it happens! Personally, I’m not very athletic but I loved and miss this sport (not much competition in North Georgia for Friday seafood dinners). I liked being placed on a restaurant wait list, especially this time of year. It gave me and the hubby an opportunity to enjoy a refreshing adult beverage (or three), catch up on the week’s events and people watch. On those rare occasions when we weren’t in the mood to don our game faces, we usually fried some type of seafood at home. Oysters were always at the top of my list because they’re super simple to fry and they taste divine. To fry them to perfection, all that’s required is a nicely seasoned coating (they don’t need a wet batter since they sit in liquid) and hot oil. A couple of minutes in the pot and dinner is served. With my recipe, they end up incredibly crunchy on the outside while remaining distinctively plump and briny on the inside.
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Fried Oysters Recipe
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
1/2 cup Zatarain’s Fish-Fri
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 pint freshly shucked oysters (preferably medium size, 20-30 per pint), drained
1/2 fresh lemon, for serving
Place oil in a large skillet or electric fryer and heat to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, combine the Fish-Fri, cornmeal, flour, Creole seasoning and salt in a large resealable plastic bag. Working in batches, add oysters to Fish-Fri mixture. Seal bag and toss until evenly coated. Shake off excess coating and carefully add oysters to hot oil. Fry until slightly curled around the edges and golden brown, 2-3 minutes per. Transfer to a wire rack or stack of paper towels to drain; sprinkle with additional salt to taste. Serve warm with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Makes 4-6 appetizer servings.