Hangtown Fry - Updating a Classic, pt. 1

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In my last post, I was a bit overzealous about amping up the bacon in my ramen by slathering it in the spicy, fermented Korean chile paste, gochujang, along with some brown sugar and soy sauce. I did this to the entire slab of bacon, an as a singleton, found that I had lots leftover (a girl can only eat so much ramen). Another ingredient I had quite a bit of, luckily, were several jars of fresh oysters from the Louisiana Delta. Shucked oysters freeze quite nicely - you can put them, along with their liquid, in a freezer-safe container, but make sure the oysters are covered in liquid. if their little heads are poking out, add some water to the container. I love a good oyster po' boy as much as the next red-blooded American, but I wanted to do something different with my little 2-cup container. I had oysters, I had bacon, I always have eggs ... the obvious solution was a hangtown fry.

Traditionally, a hangtown fry consists of an omelette of eggs, bacon and oysters, with the oysters usually being deep-fried before being added to the omelette. I'm a big fan of deep-fried oysters, but I wasn't too keen on losing one smidgen of crispiness by folding them into a wet omelette. So I opted to keep everything separate - a "deconstructed" hangtown, if you will.

Most often, I'll dredge my oysters in equal parts seasoned flour + cornmeal, but I as I'd gussied up my bacon, I felt the dredge on my oysters needed a bit of special treatment as well. I opted for a three-dip process of seasoned flour, a beaten egg with a dash of hot-sauce, followed by a coating in crushed buttery crackers.

Glancing down at my eggs, I felt guilty about subjecting them to a quick sear in the skillet, so I set about to scramble them slowly over low-heat, stirring the eggs softly to produce a creamy custard-like consistency. Cooking eggs this way takes some time, but the goal of updating a classic is to make sure each ingredient receives 100% of your attention. I promise it's worth the extra effort. *Update: since writing this, one of my favorite bloggers has completely turned the tables on this low-and-slow technique of producing custardy scrambled eggs - she says she can produce the same scrumptious eggs in 15 seconds and I can't wait to try out her technique. Want to see how she does it? Check out her blog here.

For this recipe, I'll stick with the low-and-slow method so you'll have something to compare it to when you try Mandy's recipe (which you should).

There is a lot going on in this deconstructed recipe, and as I like eating my scrambled eggs immediately after they're done cooking, I opted to do my bacon and oysters first, then popped them into a warm oven to keep them  toasty. You can switch this up any way you want - but if you do the eggs first or in the middle, I recommend placing a buttered piece of parchment paper over the top of the eggs, and place them in a double-boiler over hot water (not boiling, not simmering, just hot or the eggs will continue to cook which is no good) to keep them warm.

Ready? Here we go!

Hangtown Fry Updating a Classic, pt 1

Serves 4
Time: 1 hour

Gochujang Bacon

  • 1 lb smokey bacon
  • 1-2 tablespoons (depending on how spicy you like your bacon) gochujang paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce

Gochujang bacon is quite simple to make and it tastes like a million dollars. Fry some bacon up in a pan until just crispy. Spoon off most of the bacon fat and save for another use. Add a tablespoon or so of gochujang (a Korean fermented chili paste that should be a staple in your pantry) and stir to melt the paste and coat the bacon. Finish by stirring in the brown sugar and soy sauce. Keep the bacon warm in the oven, or cool to room temp and store in the refrigerator for future use (on EVERYTHING).

Butter-Cracker-Crumb Fried Oysters

  • 2 cups / 1 lb freshly shucked oysters, rinsed of sand and picked over for bits of broken shell
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 sleeve of a buttery cracker of your choice, bashed about until finely crushed (you don't want big pieces of cracker)
  • salt and pepper to season
  • oil for frying

First, set up either a deep-fat fryer or 2-3 inches of peanut oil in a large dutch oven and heat to 350-degrees. While the oil heats, season your oysters with a sprinkling of salt and pepper The key to a perfectly seasoned dish is to SEASON EVERY COMPONENT. Dredge the oysters in the seasoned flour, tapping gently against the side of the bowl or plate to dislodge clumps of flour, dredge in the beaten egg mixture, then finally dredge in the buttery cracker coating. Set aside on a plate until you've got enough oysters for the first batch of frying. Repeat until all oysters are "dressed" appropriately.

Drop oysters gently one-by-one into the hot oil (so they don't clump into an oyster mass) and fry 2-3 minutes until the coating is a crispy golden brown. Do not crowd your pot/fryer as it will cause the oil temp to drop too rapidly. Drain the fried oysters on a paper towel then transport them to a baking rack and keep warm in the oven with the bacon.

Velvety Scrambled Eggs

  • 8-10 eggs
  • 1/4-cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • chives
  • 1 tablespoon butter

For me, two eggs per guest is plenty, but if you like a little more egg on your plate, bump the number up to 10 or 12 eggs if you see fit. Gently beat the eggs in a bowl until the whites and yolks are well incorporated. Add the cream, salt and pepper to taste, and chives and mix together.

Heat the butter in a non-stick saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Add the egg mixture and immediately start stirring the eggs with a rubber spatula. The key is to constantly stir the eggs as they gradually heat up and cook so there is little chance for large curds to form. At first you will be tempted to turn the heat up - you'll wonder if the eggs are ever going to come together. It feels like you've been stirring for an hour and they're still liquid. You glance at the temperature knob ... it would be so easy to inch it to the right just a hair ... no one would ever know ...

But they will know. They'll know because the eggs will come together then rather quickly and they won't be smooth and creamy and velvety. They'll just be ho-hum scrambled eggs and you could have saved yourself the trouble by not attempting it at all.

So put your earbuds in and crank up your tunes. You're committed now. Do not leave the pot unattended. Stir and stir and stir until the eggs begin to thicken. Continue stirring until the eggs are no longer runny but aren't fully congealed. You want to take them off the heat while there's still a little bit of wiggle room because they'll continue to cook a bit, even if you immediately plate and serve them.

Spoon equal parts eggs, bacon and fried oysters into bowls and serve up to hungry, and amazed, breakfasters.

Cheers!