Saturday, May 03, 2008

Po' boy (Dressed Oyster and Undressed Calamari)

Cue In Search of Perfection music

tigidingding, ding-dum, dum-dum
tigidingding, ding-dum, dum-dum

with feigned British accent:
Hi, my name is JS. I don't have a restaurant and my non-existent restaurant has been voted one of the top two in the world for two consecutive years.

Some time ago, I had a fried oyster po' boy from a supposedly Cajun place.

I wasn't too satisfied with it, so TS and I set about making the perfect po' boy.

Stop that accent!

You'd think we'd go to New Orleans, the birthplace of the po' boys, but we didn't really have the budget to travel around the world to research food.

You'd think we'd go to oyster hotspots to get the perfect frying oysters, but we didn't really have the budget to do that as well.

I suppose we could have gotten the book A Geography of Oysters to help us with our quest, but then we would have to wait until they've shipped the book to us.

We didn't have time to wait, as we wanted our perfect fried oysters po' boy now.

So, in search of our perfect fried oyster po' boy, we had, like home cooks, to make do with what we have.

We went to the local supermarket to get the oysters. They came in one-pound jars and were only labelled "Fresh Pacific Oysters."

Peeking inside the jar, they looked and smelled to me good enough to be fried.

The po'boy is a sandwich, and in sandwiches, the bread is as important as the filling inside.

You'd think we'd go to Paris to find the best French baguette. That's not really in the cards.

I suppose we could have driven around town visiting artisan bakeries, but there wasn't enough time to do that.

We wanted a lighter, softer crumb bread, with a not-too-thick crust. We've seen the artisan French bread for sale around town and most of them seem to have very thick crusts.

So we landed -- yes, I'm afraid to admit -- at Safeway, to get one of their "artisan" French breads.

You know the end of the world is near when Safeway starts appropriating words like artisan.

I think the "puh-fect" baguette for po' boy may be the same type of baguette as for Vietnamese banh mi. A very light crackly crust on the outside is what it is. I don't know where we can get such an entity!

Lest you think less of us, in our defence, I must say that we only got home at around 10pm after a 14-hour day. I think at that point, the bar for "perfection" was set relatively low.

Getting all of the ingredients together, we set about making our perfect fried oyster po' boy.

And a fried calamari po' boy as well.

The oysters were pretty easy to do.

We started by heating up some cutesy peanut oil in a pan.

(Yes, cutesy. Look at it.)

We added cayenne, salt and pepper to some cornmeal, dredged the oysters, and in the pan they went.

So pretty, the grains of cornmeal and salt and pepper!

While they were frying, we made a mayo-based sauce with shallots, grainy dijon and capers.

Here's our perfect oyster po' boy.

Apparently, one can eat a po' boy plain or "dressed." We dressed this one with tomato and the mayo sauce.

Those oysters were huge. We could only fit three on there.

Our fried oyster po'boy was better than the one I had at Dadeo, but I wanted more oyster flavour. I kept thinking of the fried oysters they served at a small restaurant called Olympia, on Thurlow and Robson. (The restaurant is no longer in business since several years ago.) Those were very plump, very oysterrific oysters.

We also ran into the problem of the stale bread. (It was bought in the morning.) Toasting the bread revived it and solved that for us.

For the calamari po' boy, it was the exact same method. (Well, except that JS accidently lost control of the cayenne pepper and dumped in about 2 tablespoons worth into the cornmeal.)

The calamari was undressed. Just itself and the bun.

From where I am, I think the calamari po' boy was better. It was absolutely delicious. It had a lot of body, a lot of squid-flavour, and it had some heat to it.

However, I'm thinking that the calamari needed to be battered. Or, it needed a cornmeal and flour blend. The cornmeal was too heavy to coat the delicate pieces of squid. There was a mutiny and about 95% of the cornmeal "coating" ended up in the pan, cooking in the oil themselves!

The calamari really were undressed!

And, oopsy, they were a tad too seasoned, so ultimately, I added tomatoes in the sandwich. The calamari and tomatoes together were spectacular!

We should make these sandwiches again.

This guy below looks like a guest on Charlie Rose.

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