25 August 2010

25 August - Saint Louis IX, Bret Harte, and Hangtown Fry

Today is the memorial of Saint Louis IX, King of France (1214 - 1270), and patron of (among other things) the 18th California mission, San Luis Rey de Francia (1798), seen here in 1856. 

It is also the birthday of Bret Harte (1836), author of tales set in the era of the California gold mining camps, such as "The Luck of Roaring Camp":

"There was a commotion in Roaring Camp.  It could not have been a fight, for in 1850 that was not novel enough to have called together the entire settlement.  The ditches and claims were not only deserted, but "Tuttle's grocery" had contributed its gamblers, who, it will be remembered, calmly continued their game the day that French Pete and Kanaka Joe shot each other to death over the bar in the front room."

You can read the rest of it, and his other tales of mining life here.  As you read "The Luck of Roaring Camp", "The Outcasts of Poker Flat", and "Tennessee's Partner", see if you recognize them in the movie "Four of the Apocalypse" (1975) and the movie version of the musical "Paint Your Wagon" (1969).

And what better dinner than that lovely concoction called "HANGTOWN FRY" (a pox on those who call it an abomination!) accompanied by heavenly sourdough bread.

Simply put, Hangtown Fry is an omelet with oysters and bacon. Lots of other things can be added - diced onions and peppers, grated cheese, herbs - but the basic recipe is one like this:

6 strips of bacon
6-8 oysters
6 eggs
Flour and coarse cracker crumbs (saltines do nicely)
Salt and pepper

Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and crumble.
Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water.  Dust oysters lightly with flour, dip into the egg mixture, then roll them in the cracker crumbs. Allow them to dry slightly. Beat the remaining eggs with another tablespoon of water, add the dipping egg mixture to them with salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the oysters quickly in the hot bacon drippings (you can add butter if not enough drippings).  Half a minute to one minute per side should be enough to brown them.  When golden brown, pour the beaten egg mixture over them, sprinkle on the crumbled bacon, and cook as you would an omelet.

When it is cooked, but not dry, roll the omelet onto a hot platter, and garnish as you wish. This is supposed to serve 6, but 3 really hungry people can demolish it.