Last week I spent a day in Pass Christian talking to the Oyster Lady, Darlene Kimball, owner of Kimball's Seafood Market.
Kimball is petite and seems especially so when she is standing next to a burly oysterman, who is still wet from tonging oysters on a cold December day, but Kimball stands toe to toe with the big boys and has done so all of her life.
Kimball's life story is fascinating, and I will write about it soon, but the point of this blog today is to extol the wonderful, fat and salty oysters that come from the Mississippi reefs just offshore from Pass Christian.
The quality of an oyster is dependent on the environment in which it lives, so if there is too much rain, or the water temperature gets too high, then it suffers, but when all conditions are right, a Mississippi oyster is hard to beat.
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A cold oyster, fresh from the harvest, expertly opened so that none of the precious liquor has spilled, tastes just as fresh and salty as the water where it lived. It is a divine sip, not even half a mouthful, but exquisite. Take the time to get to know oysters, and oysters will become a lifelong passion.
A good oyster needs nothing more than a spurt of lemon, or the tiniest drop of hot sauce, but nothing more. If you want to fry them, it is fine, they are delicious that way, too, but please, please do not overcook them.
1 quart fresh oysters
1 package tempura powder
1 package panko bread crumbs
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Heat a deep pot, never more than half way full of oil, to 375 f. Toss the drained oysters in the dry tempura powder, give them a shake, then set aside until they become tacky, then toss in the panko and drop, a few at a time, into the hot oil. If you crowd the pan, the temperature will drop, and your oysters will become soggy. Fry for 45-50 seconds, and, yes, you need to count. Remove and place on paper towels to drain. It is critical that they be served within seconds of being fried.