Monday, May 10, 2010

Hangtown Fry

The old mining town of Placerville, California, was dubbed Hangtown back in the mid-1800s after a trio of outlaws met their end on the same day and in the same oak tree. Legend has it that not long after that a Forty-niner who finally hit paydirt took his diggings into a local saloon and demanded the most expensive meal in town. The cook picked his three dearest ingredients—fresh eggs carefully packed for the rough overland journey, oysters shipped up from San Francisco, and bacon from the East Coast—and fried them up together.

If our miner had been a hedge fund manager the cook might have even tossed a few glittering flakes into the pan, but as it is this plenty rich West Coast classic has satisfied most hungry prospectors for more than 150 years.

Lately I seem to have a surf 'n' turf fixation involving seafood and mushrooms. You can see my Kung Pao Geoduck with Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms and my X-Country Double Lobster Risotto that used Maine lobster and Washington State lobster mushrooms. This time around I combined oysters harvested the other day with my first morel mushrooms of the year.

We got the oysters last week during an outing with the drunken midgets. After showing a few friends of mine the ropes on the oyster bar—then watching them shoot raw oysters left and right—it was miraculous that I got home with any at all. Shucked oysters will keep for several days in the fridge, and though not fit for slurping raw they're perfect in a Hangtown Fry.

4 eggs, beaten
3 oysters, shucked
3 morels, halved
2 slices slab bacon, cut into thirds
1 scallion, bulb sliced, green tops cut into thirds
1 small jalapeño, sliced
cracker crumbs
hot sauce

1. Set oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch cast-iron skillet, then fry bacon over medium heat with a little oil. Remove to plate.
2. Saute morels, jalapeño, and scallion bulb in bacon fat until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile dredge each oyster in flour, dip in egg, and roll in cracker crumbs. Add a knob of butter to skillet along with battered oysters. Brown on one side, flip, and add remaining scallion tops. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 1 minute before pouring in egg and returning bacon to pan.
4. Cook egg mixture for several minutes before finishing in oven like a frittata.
Note: For less fussy approach, simply fry all the non-egg ingredients together and then scramble. Or, alternately, for a more elegant dish, remove each of the ingredients from the skillet in turn when done sautéing, then add back as eggs begin to set, as shown in photos.

Serves 1 hungry prospector or 2 hedge fund managers.


Anonymous said...

I had this for dinner tonight! Delicious. My crusty baguette has found another friend in this surf and turf egg dish.

Heather said...

Wow, I just got a little heart attack from this beauty. The morels really gild the lily.

Dawn (KitchenTravels) said...

Hangtown Fry - a classic old school dish. Various versions of this recipe are still served in a few San Francisco restaurants... thank goodness!

r. hurd said...

That is gorgeous. Very creative.

Langdon Cook said...

Anonymous - Hangtown Fry will be giving Po'boys stiff competition in our kitchen.

Heather - Yeah, I figured the morels might put a few of you over the top... Have you been on the hunt yet?

Dawn - I love me some old school!

r. hurd - Wish I could call it my invention but I'm happy to bask in the creativity of others.

Janice said...

As I child in SF, I had Hangtown Fry for Saturday lunch ever Saturday at Jack's. Now that I am on the east coast, I have not been able to convince anyone of the correctness of this combination. Your post has strengthened my resolve.
Janice (from

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

This looks fabulous! I love that you added fresh morels and bacon in with the oysters. Your pics of the Hangtown Fry make me hungry. I have been learning about Pacific Northwest Oysters and didn’t know that there are at least 70 varieties available. Do you have a favorite for cooking with -vs- raw?
Chef David –

Josh Bendick said...

I live in "Old Hangtown" but my favorite rendition is two and a half ours west of here in Point Reyes Station at the Pine Cone Diner...fresh oysters are key.