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Baltimore-Style Oyster Loaves
(Makes 2 oyster loaves, serves about 4)

2 large, fresh-baked crusty french rolls (approx. 8; by 4;)
or 2 very small fresh-baked loaves of bread
4 oz. butter, softened
1 pint fresh oysters, rinsed and drained
1 or 2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups saltine cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp black pepper
vegetable shortening for frying
approx. 1/4 cup tabasco sauce (to taste)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (hot) Cut a lid in the top of each
french roll, remove it and with your fingers scoop out the inside
of the roll, leaving about a 1/2 shell inside the roll and on the
lid. Use a brush or the back of a spoon to spread the softened
butter all over the inside of the rolls and the underside of the
lids. Place rolls, hollowed-out side down, on a baking pan. Place
lids buttered side down. Put the rolls and lids in the oven until
they become crispy on the inside but not too brown, about 5-8
minutes. Remove rolls from oven and turn it down to 300 degrees.
Drain, rinse and pat dry oysters. Begin heating 1-1/2 inches of
vegetable shortening in a deep skillet. Four at a time, dip oysters
in beaten egg, then in a mixture of the cracker crumbs and the
black pepper. Drop a cracker crumb in shortning; if it sizzles
without immediately beginning to turn brown, the shortening is at
the right temperature. Fry oysters four at a time until they are
golden brown and crispy, turning after 2 minutes and cooking about
3 minutes altogether. Remove to paper toweling. Repeat with the
rest of the oysters, four at a time.

Put four fried oysters in the bottom of one of the french rolls.
Sprinkle them with tabasco sauce to your taste. For the second
layer, put in as many more oysters as will fit in the roll with
the lid snugly on top (usually about 2-3 more oysters). Sprinkle
these with tabasco and then put on the lid. Wrap the entire loaf
tightly in aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven. 10. Repeat
for the second oyster loaf. Ready to serve! Get out some forks,
napkins, lemon wedges if you like, and cold beer. This should be
a shared feast with everyone spearing oysters out of the loaf and,
of course, munching on the bread itself as you go along.


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