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A Perfect End to Mardi Gras: Fried Oyster Po’Boy

By 7:45 am yesterday, I was wearing a fox costume, complete with massive tail, my Mardi Gras tutu, a Mardi Gras top hat, and a mask. Mardi Gras fox was ready. By 8:00 I was saying “hi” to my neighbors who stared at me strangely, despite the fact that the entire family – husband, wife, and middle school-aged daughter – was wearing matching clown outfits. And by 8:10, I was biking down to, as Professor Longhair sang, “see the Zulu Queen.”

Blocks before I got to Napolean Avenue, where, in a few hours, Rex would roll towards the end of Mardi Gras, I could hear happy shouts and brass band notes wafting down St. Charles Avenue. It was actually impossible not to smile – the city was alive with merriment. It was palpable.

New Orleans has a wonderful stereotype as a city of revelers who live decadently, imbibe freely, and indulge their senses: ears delight in soulful live jazz, eyes take in gorgeous buildings and majestic oak trees, taste buds dance at the touch of Cajun food, noses twitch at the metallic odor of braking streetcars or a po’boy picnic in Audubon Park, and hands can grip a sweating to-go cup or a rough oyster shell.

Nine out of ten times I tell someone I live in New Orleans, the response is, “Oh, how wonderful! I love visiting, but I could never live there. I’d just have too much fun.” They are referring to those powerful sensory indulgences, which are amplified over Mardi Gras. Anyone who has lived here for even a short period of time can attest that you cannot actually live that way – just as residents can’t live like visitors in any vacation spot. My wallet, my clothes, and my stamina would not appreciate what it takes to live like that.

But on Mardi Gras, residents and visitors do live exuberantly. And they should. It is a wonderful, albeit wild, celebration of life and friends and fun. As my first Mardi Gras experience ended last night, or, honestly yesterday afternoon around 4:00 when I fell into a semi-comatose state and began to text friends asking who wanted to come give me a back massage to relieve my bead-induced cramps, I can attest to it all.

Even when the beads stopped falling yesterday, I had one personal Mardi Gras indulgence I had to take care of. I have given up fried food for Lent. In the past few weeks, I’ve been planning my course of action as today, Ash Wednesday, got closer. I saw fried oysters and cheese fries as the only real sacrifices, so I knew I had to get my fill in advance and I was determined to make a homemade fried oyster po’boy as my final fried meal.

So, last night, I set out to find oysters – which actually just meant finding a grocery store that was open on Mardi Gras day. It was much harder to find an open store than it was to make these sandwiches – but very worth it. Crunchy fresh French bread, smoky chipotle mayo, and crispy, golden fried oysters made the perfect final indulgence for my Mardi Gras.

Fried Oyster Po’boy with Chipotle Mayonnaise
Makes 2 sandwiches

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ tsp Tony Chachere’s
¼ tsp ground black pepper
12 large oysters, shucked
1 cup iceberg lettuce
½ cup mayonnaise
juice of ½ lemon
4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
frying oil

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix well. Toss oysters in flour, shake off excess flour, and reserve on a plate.

Pour about two inches of frying oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet – cast-iron is preferable. Heat oil to 350°. Add oysters and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove oysters with a slotted spoon and reserve on a paper towel covered plate to drain.

Meanwhile, cut bread to the desired length of sandwiches, split down the middle, and toast in the oven.

Add minced chipotles and lemon juice to mayonnaise and whisk together. Spread a generous amount of chipotle mayonnaise on bread. Top with desired amount of lettuce and half of oysters. Repeat to make second sandwich. Serve with Tabasco.

1 Comment

  1. The writing here is beautiful and amazing

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