The Pan-Fried Oyster Roll. I grew up in Salem, the capital of Oregon. The Oregon coast is just over an hour's drive from Salem and growing up we always had fresh seafood. Salmon, fresh and smoked, clams, oysters, mussels and the prized Dungeness crab. One of Mother’s specialties was fried razor clams when they were fresh in season.
The Oyster and the Oregon Coast-
Yaquina Bay is a coastal estuary in Newport and one of the major fishing ports on the coast. During the summer we'd drive down to Newport and spend the day walking on the beach and visiting the shops and restaurants down on the old waterfront. Mo's Seafood and Chowder House is an iconic restaurant in Newport and their chowder is rated one of the best in the country.Jump to Recipe
At an early age, I acquired a taste of fresh oysters, preferably fried. As a kid, it was a real treat to drive up to Portland and have dinner at Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, a Portland institution since 1907.
Dan and Louis were some of the first oyster farmers in the region, harvesting oysters in Yaquina Bay on the Oregon Coast. Today Oregon Oyster Farms is still in operation, having cultivated oysters in Newport’s Yaquina Bay since 1907, a testament to the sustainability of their business. Most important, farmed oysters are widely considered sustainable seafood. According to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, commercial production poses little impact on the marine environment, and can even offer restorative benefits.
We went to Dan and Louis once a year when my cousins came to Portland from Wisconsin. My favorite was the extra-small, fried Yaquina Bay oysters. The little Yaquina Bay oysters were just the right size to get a delicate, crispy coating, yet were still juicy on the inside.
Crispy, Briny, Sweet Oysters-
Our recipe is inspired by the fried Yaquina Bay Oysters at Dan and Louis, but we give a nod to our friends on the New England coast and the lobster roll. Any variety of oysters will do but choose the extra-small or petite size for this sandwich.
We borrow a technique from the legendary Howard Johnson's Restaurant chain-soak the oysters in a blend of evaporated milk and egg before dipping in a dry mix. The evaporated milk is thicker and a bit sweeter than regular milk and blends with the egg so the dry mixture holds to the oyster better than using regular milk. We use cake flour combined with cornmeal for dusting the oysters. Cake flour adds a delicate, lighter coating than regular flour and the cornmeal adds flavor and texture.
It's a tradition where I live in Spokane, Washington, to serve fries with a side of tartar sauce, which makes perfect sense. Crispy, french fries dipped in a creamy, tart sauce, (and way better than "fry" sauce or ketchup).
Try our "UK-Style" Tartare Sauce full of dill relish, lemon juice and chopped egg-
We craft our open-face sandwich with a Kaiser roll split down the top. Then we lay in a blanket of tangy buttermilk coleslaw, some of the pan-fried oysters and garnish with lemon-caper tartar sauce. Buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice make the coleslaw dressing tangy, balancing the rich flavor of the oysters. Our tartar sauce blends light mayonnaise with fresh lemon juice, capers and dill relish making the sauce creamy with pickle flavor that perfectly accents seafood.
Pan-Fried Yaquina Bay Oyster Sandwich with Tangy Buttermilk Coleslaw
Our open-face sandwich features extra-small oysters from Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon. We pan-fry the oysters just until they are crisp, then place them on a blanket of tangy buttermilk coleslaw, and topped with our lemon-caper tartar sauce.
For the Tartar Sauce-
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. dill relish
- 2 tsp. chopped capers
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Tangy Buttermilk Coleslaw-
- ½ cup mayonnaise substitute light mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 8 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- ¾ cup chopped green onions
For the Oysters-
- 12 oz. jar extra-small oysters
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 egg
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- dash Tabasco sauce
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
- canola oil for frying
- 4 Kaiser rolls
- 4 tbsp. melted butter
Make the Tartar Sauce-
In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill relish, and capers and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to build the sandwiches.
Make the Tangy Buttermilk Coleslaw-
In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, sugar, milk, buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the cabbage, carrots and green onions and toss to combine.
Refrigerate the coleslaw at least 3 hours before serving. As the coleslaw chills, the lemon juice and vinegar blend with the buttermilk giving the coleslaw a tangy flavor.
Pan-Fry the Oysters and Build the Sandwich-
Heat the oven to 350. Split the Kaiser rolls down the top but don’t cut all the way through.
Butter each side of the Kaiser bun and toast in the oven until just toasted, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover while you fry the oysters.
Heat a deep skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add enough canola oil for about ½” of oil in the skillet and heat to 325. We're pan-frying the oysters in shallow oil rather than deep-frying.
In a bowl whisk together the evaporated milk, egg, salt, pepper and tabasco. In another bowl, whisk the cake flour and cornmeal together. Dip the oysters in the liquid mixture then dip in the flour mixture. Make sure the oysters are fully coated with the flour and cornmeal.
Pan-fry the oysters about 1 minute, then gently turn over and fry another 1 minute. The oysters should be crispy on the outside but soft inside. Drain the oysters on paper towels.
Spoon some of the tangy buttermilk coleslaw on the bottom of a roll. Place 5-6 of the pan-fried oysters on top of the coleslaw, then drizzle the oysters with some of the tartar sauce. Serve the sandwich with crinkle fries and extra tartar sauce on the side.
Recipe Notes: You can use store-bought mayonnaise or homemade mayonnaise. Homemade mayonnaise is richer in flavor and has a yellow, natural color. We use finely shredded cabbage found in the bagged salad section at the supermarket.
Save yourself some time rather than shucking live oysters in the shell. We use fresh, shucked oysters in a jar. You'll find them in the seafood section of the market in a chilled case. Check the buy when date.