Fried Oyster Sliders with Saffron Aioli

Fried Oyster Sliders with Saffron Aioli
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Every year I put together a multi-course Christmas menu centered around a specific theme. Last year it was Chinese takeout meets traditional festive feast and it featured dishes like Char Sui Squash and Brussels Sprout Egg Rolls. This year I’m going back to my roots…well sort of. This year’s theme is seafood. In particular seafood from the East Coast of Canada. Every dish features jewels from the Atlantic with the exception of dessert because well, that sounds gross. I will be expanding the menu this year to include a couple of dishes that are ideal for ringing in 2022 as well, so if you’re not a seafood fan, this isn’t going to be a great month for you here. But if you’re a salty dog, like me, welcome to heaven. First up, Fried Oyster Sliders.

Kneading the dough for the slider buns
Forming the slider buns

These Fried Oyster Sliders are the perfect holiday ice breaker. These petit sandwiches feature homemade mini pain au lait slider buns, a saffron aioli, microgreens, fresh dill, and of course, panko dredge fried oysters. Now, most people are familiar with oysters on the half shell. And it may seem unnecessary to fuss over something as naturally perfect as a raw oyster. But when you experience a fried oyster, you know why they exist. And they do exist across multiple cuisines. The Chinese serve a version of fried oysters during their New Year,  Louisianan chefs have their oyster po’boys, and the Japanese roll oysters in panko to make a dish called Kaki Furai.

The finished slider buns

While the clean, gently briny taste of freshly shucked oysters will always be my favorite, fried oysters are pretty damn good and well worth extra effort. And by effort, I mean dredging the oysters as you would a piece of fish or a chicken nugget. Simple stuff. Now, I realize shucking oysters can be daunting for first-timers, but I promise it’s really not that bad. You shuck a couple and you’ve pretty much got it. This video from America’s Test Kitchen explains the process very well, so if you’re feeling nervous, start there. If shucking is really not for you, you can buy pre-shucked oysters they just won’t be as fresh. But we are frying the oysters, so their lack of freshness isn’t a deal-breaker.

Slowly whisking in the olive oil to make the aioli
Saffron Aioli

But enough about oysters, let’s talk about these cute little buns. I used a classic pain au lait dough and created these tiny little burger buns. You’ve seen this dough before. I used it to make the buns for my Rolled Korean Omelette Sandwiches and for my Dinner Rolls. It really is fool-proof and an excellent basic bread dough to have in your back pocket. Now, forming these little suckers can be tedious. You will get anywhere from 20-24 buns out of this recipe, so that is a fair amount of shaping. I suggest throwing on an engrossing podcast and hunkering down in the kitchen. I find it cozy but I’m willing to accept that I may be weird.

Shucking the oysters

Now, I would suggest making the buns a day ahead of time because they are so time-consuming. But when it comes to the Saffron Aioli, you have options. You can make it a day in advance, it will keep in the fridge very nicely. Or you could make it the day of because it comes together so quickly. You can opt to make your aioli in a food processor or whisk it together by hand. I whisked mine together by hand because as I mentioned in my previous post, I hate scrubbing my food processor. Making aioli by hand is not as tricky or exhausting as the world has led you to believe. In much the same way as shucking oysters, you whisk one or two aiolis and you’re basically a pro. But yes, a food processor will spare your forearms a little grief.

Frying the oysters

And finally, we arrive at the oysters themselves. As I mentioned, these oysters are rolled in a simple dredge of flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs. I did double bread my oysters and I urge you to do the same – they are so much crispier that way. What do I mean by double breading? Simply bread your oysters as you normally would – flour, egg, breadcrumbs. Then return the oyster to the egg before reintroducing it to the breadcrumbs. And that is double breading and you can pretty much do it to anything and it will taste amazing.

Fried Oyster Sliders with Saffron Aioli

Now we’ve arrived at the frying process and this is frankly a breeze as far as frying adventures go. Because oysters are so small, you really don’t need a ton of oil. About 2-inches of neutral oil is all you’ll need to fry these suckers. And you won’t be at the stove long. Oysters fry up in 1-2 minutes on each side. Don’t fry your oysters into oblivion. Remove them from the oil the second they turn golden. You don’t have to worry about them being underdone. You do have to worry about them turning into rubber bullets. Once the oysters are fried, these Fried Oyster Sliders are as simple as making sandwiches. I suggest enlisting the help of a few family members or again, finding a particularly engrossing podcast.

Fried Oyster Sliders with Saffron Aioli

And that’s pretty everything you need to know about these Fried Oyster Sliders. A slightly fancy seafood starter that is guaranteed to set a warm yet sophisticated tone for the whole evening. With the appetizers out of the way, we’re moving on to the soup course next, and believe me, it’s a doozy. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Enjoy!

Fried Oyster Sliders with Saffron Aioli

Fried Oyster Sliders with Saffron Aioli

These Fried Oyster Sliders feature mini pain au lait buns topped with saffron aioli, dill, microgreens, and crisp golden fried oysters.
Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Rising Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 18 sliders

Equipment

  • Stand mixer with a dough hook
  • 2 large baking sheets
  • mortar and pestle (optional)
  • food processor (optional)

Ingredients
  

Slider Buns

  • 307 ml (10.5 fl oz.) 2% milk
  • 15g (0.5 oz) active dry yeast
  • 30g (1oz) honey
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 ½ -4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter softened, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling

Saffron Aioli

  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil I used canola

Fried Oysters

  • 18 oysters shucked
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • neutral oil for frying

Garnish

  • ½ cup daikon microgreens
  • ¼ cup fresh dill
  • cornichons optional

Instructions
 

For the Buns

  • Pour the milk into a small saucepan and place it over low heat. Once the milk reaches the temperature warm bathwater, take it off of the heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the milk and add the honey. Let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. 
    307 ml (10.5 fl oz.) 2% milk, 30g (1oz) honey, 15g (0.5 oz) active dry yeast
  • Add the salt and 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix on low until a loose dough forms. Add another cup of flour. Once integrated, add the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments. Only add as much flour as the dough needs to clean the sides of the bowl and feel slightly tacky to the touch.
    3 ½ -4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp kosher salt
  • With the mixer set to low, add 1-2 cubes of the butter to the dough. Wait until the butter is fully integrated before adding more. 
    ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until the dough feels and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl greased with olive oil. Cover and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. 
  • Once the dough has risen, punch it down and form it into small round buns, weighing about 30g (1oz) each. Transfer the buns to a couple of large baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes. This is a good time to start preheating your oven to 375°F.
  • In a small bowl, whisk to combine the egg and water. Brush the mixture over the tops of the buns and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake the buns for 30 minutes or until golden, rotating the pans once halfway through. Transfer the buns to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
    1 egg, 1 tbsp water, 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

For the Aioli

  • Place the garlic, saffron, and salt in a mortar and pestle. Crush the ingredients together until they form a paste. Set it aside.
    1 clove garlic, 1 pinch saffron threads, ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Place the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. While whisking constantly, slowly stream in the olive oil followed by the neutral oil. Continue to whisk until a glossy, thick emulsion forms. Add the garlic mixture and whisk until fully integrated. Cover and transfer the finished aioli to the fridge. Chill until ready to serve.
    1 large egg yolk, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tsp lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, 3 tbsp neutral oil

For the Oysters

  • Carefully place the oysters in a colander suspended over a bowl. Pour boiling water over them and let them sit for 10 seconds. Take them out of the water and set them aside. **
    18 oysters
  • Pour the flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. Add the salt to the flour and whisk to combine. Working with an oyster at a time, coat the oysters in the flour, followed by the eggs and the breadcrumbs. Return the oyster to the eggs and roll it once again in the breadcrumb mixture to double bread it. Transfer the breaded oysters to a plate and set them aside. 
    1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ tsp kosher salt, 2 large eggs, 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Pour 2-inches of oil into a large skillet. Heat the oil to 350°F and add the oysters 6-7 at a time. Fry until golden on both sides, about a minute or two on each side. Transfer the oysters to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.
    neutral oil

To Assemble

  • To assemble the sliders, split a bun and slather on the bottom half with a little aioli. Top the aioli with a fried oyster followed by microgreens and a piece of dill. Place the top of the bun on top and secure with a toothpick. Add a cocktail onion or a cornichon, if desired. 
    ½ cup daikon microgreens, ¼ cup fresh dill

Notes

** This will blanch the oysters, so they are a little less delicate to handle while we’re breading them.
Keyword aioli, buns, oysters, panko breadcrumbs, saffron, sliders

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