Hangtown Fry

My first venture into the shellfish arena of bacon book recipes. I love oysters in any form so I figured, hard to go wrong with this.

I got 5 freshly shucked oysters from our local wonderful seafood market, Monahan’s. The oysters were from Cape Cod, and I think Mike Monahan said they were called Wiona oysters, but it might have been Wionna.

I had 3 large free range eggs, and 3 thick slices of Nueske’s Applewood Smoked bacon.


My deviation from the recipe though (which I don’t recommend!) was to use Glutino gluten-free crackers, rather than oyster crackers. I don’t know of a gluten-free source for oyster crackers, yet.

Glutino crackers

Now, these are excellent crackers, the best I’ve found that are gluten-free when you want a cracker that is more like a saltine, instead of a rice cracker. But I learned, that if you can, use oyster crackers for this recipe, or, put a lot more effort than I did into crushing the crackers very finely. In hindsight, oyster crackers are very thin, and so crush up fine quite easily. (This is probably why they are called oyster crackers, eh? Duh.) And very fine is what you want. (Mine was still quite tasty, but I did not get a browned crust all over the oyster, which I think is the goal.)

So anyway, I coated the oysters in the too-chunky crushed crackers, and let them sit.


Meanwhile I chopped up the bacon, and fried it til crisp, and took it out of the pan, leaving the fat.


Then in went the oysters, for about 2 mintues as directed, and my cracker crust did get nicely golden brown, just not a uniform coating on the oysters.


Then this last part of the recipe was very quick – the oysters cooked for just 2 minutes, then in go the beaten eggs, bacon, salt, and pepper, and it only needed to cook for probably another 2 minutes, gently stirring, and it was done.


Was a hearty dish, more than I can usually face for breakfast but excellent for a brunch or lunch. I love the flavors of the oysters and bacon together. I had used 3 slices Nueske’s but I think only 2 are needed. (Nueske’s slices are fairly large though.) If you like oysters this is a great dish and super-quick to make.

finished hangtownfry

The full recipe follows, from Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon: Stories of Pork Bellies, Hush Puppies, Rock ‘n’ Roll Music and Bacon Fat Mayonnaise, page 158:

Oysters, eggs and bacon in one really good all-American dish, Hangtown Fry is a California classic that’s long been one of the most popular items on the Roadhouse brunch menu. I love it because it’s simple to make, it’s delicious and it’s got a great story to boot. I like to use a dry-cured bacon like Broadbent’s because that’s the sort of intense, long-cured bacon that Gold Rush-era cooks would likely have been working with.

The story of Hangtown Fry takes you to a northern California town originally known as Old Dry Diggins, then as Hangtown and now Placerville. Back in Gold Rush days it was a prominent supply town – many of the area’s miners went there to restock and cut loose, and, while they were at it, often got themselves into a bit of trouble. The name Hangtown came about in the middle of the nineteenth century, when three bad guys were strung up on the branches of a big old oak in the center of town. I’ve been told that the stump of that old oak is still “stuck in the mud” (so to speak) in the basement of a bar called The Hangman’s Tree (which you’ll be able to find quickly by the body hanging from a noose off the front of the building).

The dish is said to have originated at the now-defunct El Dorado Hotel, just across the street from the hanging tree. Legend has it that a miner rolled into town with gold from a fresh strike and ordered the saloonkeeper to serve up his most special dish. The cook offered a choice of three high-end options: oysters, eggs (hard to transport and hence costly) and bacon. The miner told him to toss all three into one dish, and Hangtown Fry was born.

It’s a very versatile recipe – great for brunch, lunch or a light supper. Don’t skimp on the egg quality – remember, they were a luxury in mid-nineteenth-century Hangtown and remain a key component of the dish, not just a way to hold the oysters and bacon together.

Since I almost never see single-serving recipes in cookbooks, I decided to design this one that way. But of course the quantities are easily increased for any number of diners. You can vary the number of oysters according to how much gold you’ve got in your pouch.


4 tablespoons oyster crackers, crushed

3 to 6 fresh oysters, shucked

5 ounces sliced bacon (about 2 to 3 slices), chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons bacon fat

3 large eggs, beaten

1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper


Dredge the oysters in the cracker crumbs. Leave them resting for at least 10 minutes so that the crumbs bond with the oysters.

In a non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan, leaving the bacon fat. Reduce the heat a bit and add the additional measure of fat. When hot, add the oysters and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring gently, until the crumb coating is lightly browned.

Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper, and stir gently. Add the bacon. Cook over low heat, stirring gently every 30 seconds or so, until the eggs are done as you like them.

Serve with San Francisco sourdough toast and “Folsom Prison Blues” playing in the background.

Serves 1 generously as a main dish, or 2 as a smaller side dish