It has been some time since the word ‘poor’ could be applied to oysters in this country, but they are still cheap and cheerful fare in Louisiana, where po’ boy sandwiches are as popular as hotdogs or hamburgers are in other American cities. These sandwiches became synonymous with wild nights out in the last century on and around Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, in the same way that onion soup is still eaten as a pick-me-up in the early hours of the morning in Les Halles in Paris.
The kind of bread you use makes all the difference. A ficelle or small baguette is perfect. Allow 6 large Pacific (rock) oysters each. This recipe stems from the 18th century. These days the oysters are either crumbed or battered and deep-fried. A po’ modern variation on the original.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Split the lengths of bread, brush them inside and out with one-third of the melted butter and put in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp.
Shell the oysters, reserving their juices. Sauté the shelled oysters briefly in the remaining butter, removing them from the pan as soon as they become opaque. Add the oyster juices to the pan with the Tabasco sauce and the double cream, a turn or two of pepper and the crème fraîche. Turn up the heat and boil, whisking the liquid mixture to a thick sauce.
Return the oysters to the pan, toss to coat, then put them into the bread, spooning the sauce over. Shut your eyes and hear that jazz.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.