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Jan 20, 2009
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Wine With . . . Fried Oysters

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       

We were somewhat surprised that no typically lean, grassy Sauvignon Blanc made it into our final top-five wines with this dish.  After all, when we paired oysters on the half shell in our column just after Christmas in 2006, three of the five wines we selected were ultra dry Sauvignon Blancs, with classic grapefruit and kiwi flavors, and underlying minerality.  This time the two of us, along with our friends Lisa and Charles, eschewed wines that had overt herbaceous qualities and significant acidity.  Instead, when we compared our individual results at the end of the tasting, we discovered that the wines we all had chosen were characterized by a measure of sweetness and reasonable weightiness on the palate. (Even the sparkling wine of choice was fruity rather than ultra brut).  What a difference it makes to take oysters out of their shells and drop them into sizzling butter!

Had we deep-fried the bivalves, the results surely would have been different-our guess is that even bigger, showier whites would have dominated in that case-but we chose to dredge them lightly in cayenne-accented flour and cornmeal, and sauté them in butter.  The result was meltingly sweet and tender oysters full of ocean flavor--not greasy and not encased in thick, fried crust.    

We enjoyed these oysters as a main course, along with salad and plenty of good French bread.  We've made this a couple of times, using fresh oysters packed in jars or cans.  We served them with a homemade aioli, but tartar or cocktail sauces are other options.

Fried Oysters

serves 4 as a main course

3 pints oysters

about 1 cup buttermilk

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

salt and pepper to taste

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

lemon wedges

Drain the oysters and place them in a bowl.  Pour in enough buttermilk to just cover them; let sit for 15 minutes or up to an hour.  Drain the oysters.  Meanwhile, on a plate or other flat surface, thoroughly combine the flour, cornmeal and seasoning.  Dredge the oysters in the mixture; then spread them out on baking sheets lined with paper towels. 

Add the butter and oil to a heavy skillet such as a cast-iron frying pan.  When very hot, add the oysters and brown them for a minute or two on each side, being careful not to overcook.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges. 

If you have any food and wine pairings that you think are outstanding, or if you've encountered any glaring mismatches, we'd love to hear from you.  Drop us a line at winewith@winereviewonline.com



Approx. Price



Eugenio Collavini, Collio 'Broy' 2006

(Imported by Mionetto USA)






This sumptuous blend of Chardonnay, Friulano, and Sauvignon Blanc tasted rich but never overwhelmed the oysters.  The wine had the added advantage of becoming more complete and complex with time in the glass, making the last sip (and bite) of this pairing even more enjoyable than the first. 




Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling 'Cold Creek Vineyard' 2007






The sweetest wine we are recommending, this bright Riesling had enough acidity to stay in balance, and its vivacious tangerine and other citrus fruit flavors made the oysters themselves taste lively.  The cayenne in the breading made the wine's sweetness especially appropriate.




Schramsberg, North Coast (California) Blanc de Blancs 2005






An elegant and refreshing partner for this dish, this bubbly succeeded because fruit rather than yeasty flavors and aromas constitute its calling card.  It tasted fresh and lively with a hint of sweetness-just what this dish needs.




Silverado, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 'Miller Ranch' 2007





Though tasting true to the varietal, this Sauvignon paired well with our fried oysters because it did not taste overly aggressive or assertive (unlike a South African Sauvignon we tried).  Its flavors certainly were bright, but they enhanced the dish much as a squeeze of lemon would, and so did not threaten to overwhelm it.




Simi, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2007





A soft, almost lush Chardonnay, this wine tasted of ripe apples and pears, with enough oak to add spice but not so much as to detract from the fruit.  Like the oysters themselves, it tasted succulent.