This Fried Chicken Recipe Has a Briny Twist

Grab those spare oyster shells and try this at home

August 11, 2023 6:52 am
Crispy Chicken “Oyster”
Crispy chicken “oysters” from chef Tristen Epps
Ocean Social

The clue is in the name: at the beachfront Ocean Social in Miami Beach’s Mid-Beach, the menu focuses on seafood, from hearth-roasted local clams to golden king crab with mustard dashi dip. But there’s one notable exception that has proven to be a must-try: a trompe l’oeil dish of crispy bites of fried chicken masquerading as oysters. It’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek offering from chef Tristen Epps, a former Chopped winner under whose leadership Ocean Social was recognized by the Michelin Guide with a Bib Gourmand. Epps loves wordplay and encouraging folks to try new things, both of which inspired him to create this innovative bite.

“It seems like we always say ‘it tasted like chicken,’” he says. “For once, I made chicken but with a unique twist.” For culinary nerds, the wordplay begins with the very word oyster, which, in poultry parlance, refers to a tiny muscle on the back of the chicken. Tender and oh-so-flavorful, this bite is appropriately dubbed the sot l’y laisse, in French: only the idiot would leave it behind.

“If you want the real deal, you need to get the actual ‘oyster’ out of the chicken to get perfect tasty nuggets,” Epps says, who nevertheless notes that because each chicken boasts only two oysters, he’s opted to make his own out of flavorful, juicy chicken thighs. 

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First, the chicken is cut into oyster-sized portions — this, he says, usually means about four pieces per thigh. These he marinates in a spiced buttermilk infused with fish sauce before tossing them in flour seasoned with garlic, onion, white pepper and dashi, and then frying them until crispy. “I love the play on surf and turf, so adding that slight seaweed flavor when you bite into the chicken is a way that I like to play with the senses,” he says.

He pushes that playfulness to the next level in his choice of accompaniment, a nori-spiked green goddess dressing, and his choice of serving vessel, an emptied oyster shell. Sometimes it confuses diners, but that, he admits, is “half the fun of the dish.” If you don’t have oyster shells laying around, he says you could absolutely serve these little bites on a skewer or in Chinese soup spoons. No matter what, they’ll be delicious.

Crispy Chicken “Oyster”

Servings: 3

  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. white pepper
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 10 crushed garlic cloves
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, cut into oyster-sized portions
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. dashi powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sheets toasted Korean nori
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • Salt, to taste
  • Frying oil
  • Pickled chili and micro herbs, for serving
    1. Combine the buttermilk, fish sauce, black pepper, white pepper, thyme sprigs, crushed garlic cloves and egg whites in a bowl. Add the chicken and marinate for a minimum of 3 hours.

    2. Combine the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dashi powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

    3. Make the green goddess dressing. In a high-speed blender, combine the toasted Korean nori, sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, avocado, parsley, green onions, fresh dill and salt. Blend until mixture turns green and is well combined. Salt the dressing to taste. Cover and chill until ready to use.

    4. Remove the chicken from marinade. Dredge chicken in flour and place on sheet stray to dry out for at least an hour.

    5. Preheat frying oil to 350 degrees. When the oil is hot, fry chicken for 3 minutes and let it rest for 2 minutes.

    6. Place the chicken oysters on a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt.

    7. Take clean and dried oyster shells and squirt in a bit of green goddess sauce. Place the oyster on top. Garnish with pickled chili and micro herbs.


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