The famed Portland gourmand James Beard once wrote that oysters are best eaten on the half-shell “with nothing to enhance them except lemon, a bit of grated fresh horseradish or a mignonette pepper sauce. If you do not like the natural flavor of oysters and find you must cover them with quantities of red cocktail sauce then perhaps you shouldn’t be eating them.”
Cynthia Nims takes a slightly different tack in her latest cookbook “Oysters: Recipes that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea.” Cynthia tells us she can get behind almost any way to get a hesitant eater to give this bivalve a try, even if it’s frying up oysters that come out of a jar.
Oyster sliders with Japanese togarashi slaw
A Japanese-inspired riff on the New Orleans po’boy, Cynthia Nims’ recipe uses the Japanese seven-spice blend shichimi togarashi, which typically includes ground red chile peppers, sansho peppers, dried citrus peel, ground ginger, dried seaweed, black and white sesame seeds.
Nim says to keep the oysters in their briny liquor until just before coating them to ensure that there will be just the right amount of moisture for the panko to cling to.
Yield: Makes 12 sliders
Oyster Slider Ingredients
12 oysters (small to medium), freshly shucked
Or jarred oysters (extra-small to small) with their liquid
2 cups panko bread crumbs, divided
Mild olive or vegetable oil, for frying
12 slider buns, split into halves
Togarashi Slaw (recipe follows below)
Prepare your pans: Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with brown butcher paper or paper towels and set an oblong wire rack on top, if you have one. Scatter ½-cup of the panko in a second rimmed baking sheet or tray for holding the coated oysters.
Prepare the oysters: Heat about ¼-inch of oil in a large heavy skillet such as cast iron over medium heat. Spread the remaining 1½-cups panko on a large plate. Add a couple of oysters onto the bed of panko and scatter some of the panko over the oysters, pressing down gently with your fingertips so that the crumbs adhere. Transfer the oysters to the other crumb-covered tray and continue coating the remaining oysters. Let the oysters sit for about 5 minutes, then lightly coat them once more to be sure they’re evenly covered.
Cook the oysters: Next, add half of the oysters to the hot skillet (cook fewer if needed to avoid crowding the pan) and fry until they turn a nice golden brown, about 3 minutes. Then, carefully turn the oysters and fry them on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer the cooked oysters to the prepared baking sheet with the wire rack and keep them warm in the oven as you fry the remaining oysters.
To Assemble: Halve the buns if they haven’t already been split. Spread the remaining mayonnaise mixture on the bottom half of the buns. Taste the slaw for seasoning and add more salt or shichimi togarashi to taste. Spoon some of the Togarashi Slaw onto the buns and top with the fried oysters. Cap off the sandwiches with the top buns and serve immediately, together with any of the remaining slaw.
Togarashi Slaw Ingredients
¾ cup mayonnaise
⅓ cup green onion, thinly sliced
½ medium cucumber (about 6 oz), peeled and seeded
1 bunch radishes (about 8 oz), trimmed
1 medium carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into 2½” lengths (if using food processor)
1 cup napa or savoy cabbage, finely shredded (moderately packed)
2 tbsps rice vinegar (unseasoned)
¾ tsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt, to taste
½ tsp shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-flavor chile powder), to taste
Prepare the mayonnaise: In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, green onions and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Prepare the vegetables: Grate the cucumber in a food processor with a grater plate or use the large holes of a box grater. Squeeze the grated cucumber to remove any excess liquid and transfer to a separate large bowl. Next, grate the radishes and carrot and add them to the bowl of cucumber, together with the shredded cabbage.
Add about ⅓-cup of the mayonnaise mixture (reserving the rest as a spread for the buns), the rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil and shichimi togarashi, tossing well to mix. The vegetable slaw should be just lightly coated. Set aside and stir occasionally while preparing the oysters.
Note: If making the slaw more than 1 hour in advance, cover the bowl and refrigerate, along with the remaining mayonnaise mixture. Before serving, allow both to come to room temperature. (Keep in mind that the vegetables will lose some of their crunch, and the slaw will leak moisture the longer it sits.)
© 2016 By Cynthia Nims. All rights reserved. Excerpted from “Oysters: Recipes that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea” by permission of Sasquatch Books.