Oyster Po' Boy

from Gourmet.com's Diary of a Foodie: Season One: H2O, January 2007

Makes 4 servings

There are many ways to stuff these iconic New Orleans sandwiches, but doing it with fried oysters is arguably the best. This preparation highlights the bivalves at their zenith, with all their briny juiciness retained inside a supercrisp cornmeal shell. The key to a really great sandwich is a smear of mayo, just a little lettuce, and loads of these delicious fried oysters.

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons cayenne

3 dozen shucked small oysters
   such as Kumamoto, drained
1 qt vegetable oil
1 (20-inch) loaf soft French or Italian bread
   (about 3 1/2 inches wide)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F.

Lightly beat together egg, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.

Whisk together flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining teaspoon black pepper in a shallow baking dish.

Whisk together cornmeal, remaining teaspoon salt, and cayenne in another shallow baking dish.

Dredge 8 oysters in flour, knocking off excess, then dip into egg mixture, letting excess drip off, and dredge in cornmeal mixture, knocking off excess.

Transfer to a large rack, then coat remaining oysters in batches of 6 to 8 in same manner, transferring to rack.

Heat oil in a 4-quart pot over high heat until thermometer registers 375F.

While oil is heating, halve bread crosswise, then cut each piece in half horizontally, cutting all the way through.

Put bread halves back together and heat bread in oven (directly on oven rack) until warm, about 5 minutes.

While bread is heating, gently drop one third of oysters into hot oil and fry, stirring occasionally, until golden, 45 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer to paper towels to drain.

Fry remaining oysters in 2 batches in same manner, returning oil to 375F between batches.

Spread mayonnaise on cut sides of bread, then make sandwiches, topping lettuce with oysters.

Halve each sandwich crosswise for a total of 4 sandwiches.