Posted by: acooksca | 03/31/2009

Hangtown Fry

hangtown-fry-2aIn 1898 my great grandparents left Indiana traveling west following the old emigrant trail with their household in a wagon. From the Tahoe Basin they crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains into California and settled in the historic mining town of Placerville.

For a few notorious years in the 1850s the town had been called Hangtown. History has forgotten the name of the miner who struck gold and celebrated with the most expensive meal Hangtown could muster. But his dinner became legend: bacon, eggs and fried with cracker crumbed oysters.

Hangtown Fry still appears on hundreds of menus along the Pacific Coast. Here is how my mother made Hangtown Fry, as it had been done in the old Blue Bell Café on Main Street.

3 thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise in halves
3 eggs
4 large, plump oysters (See Cook’s note below)
½ cup crushed cracker crumbs (or Panko bread crumbs)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a 9 or 10 inch omelet pan over medium heat and fry the bacon. When browned remove and hold aside, leaving the bacon drippings in the pan.

Meanwhile beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon water, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pat dry the oysters. Dip the oysters in the eggs to coat and then roll them in the crumbs to cover well. Cook until they turn golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn oysters over and cook until golden on the second side. Gently push them aside and return the bacon to the pan.

Place the oysters on top of the bacon and carefully pour the eggs into the pan along the edges. To help the eggs cook evenly, gently pull the cooked egg from the edges of the pan so uncooked egg can slip beneath and cook. Cook until the eggs set to your liking. You can place a lid over the pan or run it under a broiler to help cook the eggs around the oysters.

Serve the Hangtown Fry hot with buttered sourdough toast.

Yields one large (miner-sized) portion or two modern-day portions

Cooks note: My mother always used jarred oysters which are usually large. But you may substitute fresh oysters if you have them. They must be large and plump or they will dry out while the eggs are cooking.


Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.


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