You need a vacation. All of you. Even if you just got home from a 20-day Caribbean cruise, you probably still need a vacation.
But as the graphs and charts and news reports have been reminding us, Americans aren't great at taking those vacation days and getting away. So if you're guilty of not giving yourself the down time you deserve, the least you can do is create a mini-staycation at dinnertime.
On Taco Tuesday, we visit the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, and on Winesday Wednesday we kick back in the vineyards of Napa Valley. But lucky for you, it doesn't have to be Mardi Gras Monday or Second Line Saturday (forgive us) for you to visit another food favorite destination, New Orleans. All you need is some sweet jazz music and a recipe.
This Oyster Po' Boy from The Culinary Institute of America will transport you to a warm afternoon by the Louisiana waterfront. A po' boy is a Louisiana-style sandwich of meat, fish, or shellfish on soft but crusty French bread. We won't be so bold as to say what should be on a po' boy, because from town to town, and even block to block, the rules shift. But in general, po' boys are simply dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, and maybe mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles.
Fat and crunchy fried oysters are a natural po' boy filling because they are abundant in the warm waters of the Gulf, making them readily available and inexpensive. Even if you're not an oyster person, and we know there are plenty of you out there, a fried oyster is really a horse of a different color. Cooked oysters lose the slimy quality that people usually complain about. Coated in a crunchy, golden-brown cornmeal coating, they become downright tender and sweet.
Just like wine and cheese, oysters are a product of their terroir-meaning the environment in which they grow and live. Water temperature, local ecology, and even weather can influence the texture and flavor of the oyster, meaning that an oyster harvested from the Pacific Northwest will be notably different than ones harvested in the Gulf or off the coast of New England.
“Oysters from the colder north waters tend to be very complex and briny in flavor, while the West Coast oysters tend to be fruity and floral, almost cucumber-like in flavor, and the Southern oysters tend to be the least flavorful,” said The Culinary Institute of America's chef-instructor Gerard Viverito.
It's for this reason that we don't mind battering and frying these beautiful oysters, or loading them up with cocktail sauce or Louisiana hot sauce. Sure, they're great on their own, but they are mild enough that it won't be overpowering when we dress them up. And isn't getting dressed up one of the best parts of vacation?
Oyster Po' Boy
Start to finish: 45 minutes
3 cups cornmeal
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 quart shucked oysters, well-drained
Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1⁄2 cup NOLA Remoulade Sauce (recipe follows)
4 French bread rolls, about 6 inches each, split
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 head lettuce, shredded
Salt and pepper as needed
In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, Creole seasoning, and pepper.
Add the oysters and toss until well-coated.
Fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan with about 2 inches of oil. Over medium heat, bring the oil to about 350 F. Working in batches, fry the oysters until they are golden brown all over, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked oysters to a paper-towel-lined tray.
Carefully lower the lemon slices into the hot oil and fry until the white pith begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the towel-lined tray.
Spread about 2 tablespoons of NOLA sauce on one half of each roll. Evenly distribute the fried oysters, lemon, tomatoes, and lettuce between the rolls and sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.
NOLA Remoulade Sauce
2 teaspoons capers
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Creole mustard or a whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
In a food processor, combine the cornichons, capers, green onion, lemon juice, mustard, and parsley. Pulse until finely chopped.
Add the mayonnaise, paprika, and hot sauce. Pulse to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Use immediately or refrigerate in a covered container until needed.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.