Hangtown fry is a uniquely American omelette, made famous in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush. The most common version includes Pacific oysters and bacon combined with fresh eggs, all fried together.
The dish was invented inPlacerville, California. Known then as Hangtown, it was the first city miners encountered after leaving their mountain gold claims and they were hungry, very hungry.
According to legend, the dish was invented when a gold prospector, who had struck it rich, headed to the Cary House Hotel in Hangtown and demanded in a loud voice the most expensive dish that the rural kitchen could provide.
The most expensive ingredients then available were eggs, which were delicate and had to be carefully brought to the mining town as well as bacon, which had to be shipped from the East Coast, and finally, oysters, which had to be brought in iced wagons from San Francisco, over 100 miles away.
The dish has since been popularized by the Tadich Grill in San Francisco, where it has apparently been on the menu for over 160 years. Later variations on the dish include the addition of onions, bell peppers, various spices and white sauce finish – something purists would NEVER do.
According to the nearby El Dorado County Museum, "No dish epitomizes California and the Gold Rush Era more than Hangtown Fry. It was created at a location central to the Gold Rush at the same time the great state was being born. And, like the miners who worked the river banks and hillsides, and the population that followed, it is a unique blend of many things, both those produced locally and those that have arrived from elsewhere."
- 1 pintshucked fresh Taylor Pacific Oysters
- 3 slices smoked cured bacon
- 6 eggs
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- Dash ground white pepper
- 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 tbsp rich butter
- Parsley, chopped fresh
- Drain oysters thoroughly.
- Fry bacon in a 10 inch fry pan until crisp.
- Drain on absorbent paper.
- Pour off bacon fat and reserve.
- Wash fry pan.
- Combine egg, water and seasonings.
- Combine crumbs and flour.
- Dip oysters in egg and roll in crumb mixture.
- Melt butter and bacon fat in fry pan.
- Fry oysters in hot fat at moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Turn carefully and fry 2 to 3 minutes longer or until lightly browned.
- Gently lift edge of omelet to allow uncooked egg to flow to bottom of pan.
- Cook until the egg is set.
- Loosen around edges and bottom of omelet with a spatula.
- Roll omelet and turn out into a warm serving platter.
- Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.