SEARCHING FOR OYSTERS
Lake Mattamuskeet - egret, to inform you, can lead to good eating. . .
TUNDRA SWANS come in for their evening meal, and so do we, nearby, for the very best oysters - from not this lake water - but from the Pamlico Sound just a few miles away as the crow, or swans, fly . . .
The US Park Ranger directed us to MARTELLE'S FEED HOUSE (www.martellesfeedhouse.com)in Engelhard, just a few more miles east on HWY 264. Martelle's only serves local oysters and local shrimp, as well as chicken, steaks, etc.
Local means Rose Bay, Stumpy Point, Swan Quarter - bays along the northern edge of the Pamlico Sound.
This year NC's oysters are among the best remembered in a long time. They're plump and juicy, numerous, salty - tasting of the water from which they're plucked.
Sitting at the Oyster Bar at Martelle's, we kept tabs on the oysters being shucked for us, and enjoyed them dipped in butter and a spicy cocktail sauce with an ice cold beer.
What a perfect way to end our day trip down to see the winter birds that flock to Lake Mattamuskeet. We watched the movements of swans, egrets, herons, various ducks, and bald eagles, while listening in on their continuous conversations.
We had something to "crow" about, too, that evening, as we sat and slurped our oysters.
RECIPE . . . . .. . . .for OYSTER FRITTERS
Oyster or Clam Fritters
Ivadean Priest was such a talker, and a good cook. She lived her entire life in Manteo, and unfortunately died last year. One of her favorite things to make was Oyster Fritters. Clams may also be used.
Ivadean taught me this secret: Mix up the batter and pour spoonfuls into the hot oil in a cast iron skillet. They'll look like silver-dollar pancakes. Then, quickly drop an oyster or two onto the fritter. That way the oysters will be more evenly distributed. That's the way I also do Blueberries when I'm making pancakes.
Traditionally, on the Outer Banks, fritters are served with applesauce. I'd suggest creme fraiche, or, I love a dollop of softened goat cheese, or chevre, esp on clam fritters.
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup oyster or clam juice, water, and/or milk
vegetable oil for frying
1 pint oysters (or clams)
topping of your choice (creme fraiche or sour cream, chevre,
ketchup or cocktail sauce)
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels (to keep cooked fritters warm)
2. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and flour together for a thick paste. Add as much of the liquid as is required to make a thin batter that is thick enough to hold together when put into the hot fat.
3. Pour enough vegetable oil into frying pan to reach a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat.
4. When oil is hot, hold the bowl over the pan, and dip oysters into batter individually, then drop 2 to 3 oyster together in a cluster to make one fritter. Or, pour a spoonful of batter into the il, then quickly add a couple of oysters. If you are doing clam fritters, spoon a dollop of batter into the oil, then quickly add a spoonful of drained clams to the batter. Do not crowd the pan.
5. Cook each fritter until golden, then flip and cook the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels, on the baking sheet kept in the warm oven.
6. Serve stacks of the fritters on a serving platter, along with the topping.
YIELD: 1 dozen or more fritters, 4 to 6 appetizers, or 2 to 3 entrees.
from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2008, Globe Pequot Press.