For a born and bred Louisiana boy, I was raised that eating oysters in the fall and winter months is the natural order of things. Conventional wisdom is that oysters are only to be consumed in months that have the letter “R” (September through April) and although that age-old adage still prevails, you’d be hard-pressed to find any month of the year in Louisiana that the tasty bivalves aren’t available.
On a recent trip to New Orleans, Roxanne, Lauren and I stayed overnight in a gracious old shotgun house, in the Uptown section, just off of Magazine Street. Most visitors to the city never make it past the French Quarter, but New Orleans’ most interesting areas are just minutes away from the touristy trap that the Quarter has become. All along the Warehouse District, Mid City, the Marigny, the Garden District and Magazine Street are some of the local haunts that make the city so unique.
On the upper stretch of Magazine resides one of my favorite old-time restaurants, Casamento’s. Situated in tight quarters with a timeworn storefront, many just pass by this legendary eatery without the slightest glance, but inside is one of the perennial favorites of generations of Uptown residents who swear by their raw oysters and sandwiches including my favorite, the Oyster Loaf.
Walking into this historical establishment is to step back in time. Casamento’s has pristinely preserved the look and feel of the genteel era of New Orleans’ finest restaurants complete with in-laid black and white subway tiled flooring and the single row of tables opposite the long shucking station. Walking the length of the room, you can smell the fresh brine in the air and hear the endless chatter of the close-knit oystermen.
An oyster loaf in many establishments around Louisiana is simply fried oysters on po-boy bread but at Casamento’s they take it to new heights. Oyster shuckers lining the long counter are busy shucking sacks of fresh Barataria Bay oysters from the coastal waters of Plaquemines Parish. Watching them closely and listening to their stories, they understand that oysters should be treated delicately, with dignity and with the utmost simplicity. Casamento’s oysters are larger and saltier than most I run across which insures the flavor is preserved during the fry.
Lightly breaded and flash-fried, these oysters reach that perfect balance of crispy golden brown but not overcooked. Then they are sandwiched between two buttered, toasted slices of thick pullman loaf sandwich bread slathered with a generous amount of Blue Plate mayonnaise and topped with a slice of ripe tomato. With a few shakes of hot sauce and an ice-cold glass of Dixie beer, the Casamento’s Oyster Loaf is perfection for a South Louisiana boy taking a bite out of his childhood.
- ½ gallon peanut oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 2 dozen raw Louisiana oysters
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 4 slices thick-cut white pullman loaf sandwich bread
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 4 slices ripe tomato
- 4 slices dill pickle
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil and heat until it reaches 375ºF.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add the oysters.
- In another mixing bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, and Cajun seasoning.
- Add half the oysters to the cornmeal mixture and roll around until coated. Shake off the excess and drop the oysters into the hot oil.
- Fry the oysters in batches until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm.
- Butter the top and bottom of the sandwich bread. Place on a griddle or pan on medium-high heat. Toast the bread until golden brown and remove. Spread the inside of the top slice of bread generously with mayonnaise. On the bottom slice of bread place the oysters and on top of the oysters stack two tomato slices and sliced pickles. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Repeat with the second sandwich.
- Be sure to have everything ready to go and serve these sandwiches as soon as the oysters come out of the fryer. Serve with hot sauce on the side and an ice-cold beer.
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