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Fried baby oysters with arugula, parmesan cheese & aioli

12 small oysters, shucked and rinsed
2 eggs
3 cups crushed saltine-type crackers
vegetable oil
2 cups fresh, young arugula leaves, washed and spun dry
2 tbsp. good extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest, minced
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh chives, finely chopped
12 large homemade croutons, made from a baguette

Prepare aioli: Mix together the mayonnaise, lemon zest, ¼ cup lemon juice, minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Prepare the oysters: Arrange cracker crumbs onto a large plate. Beat the two eggs in a small bowl until well blended. Gently stir in the oysters and mix until they are coated with the egg. Place two or three oysters into the cracker crumbs and coat them well; remove them to another plate and repeat the process until all oysters are breaded. Heat ¼-inch of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Begin frying oysters 3 or 4 at a time. When they are a nice golden brown on the first side (in about two minutes) turn them over and fry them until the second side is golden. Remove the oysters to a plate covered with paper towels. Repeat for remaining oysters. Place plate of oysters in a warm oven while preparing the croutons.

Prepare the croutons: Quickly chop the arugula coarsely and then toss it with the olive oil, remaining lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Place a small amount of the dressed arugula on top of each crouton, then top each with a warm oyster. Now place a spoonful of aioli on top of each oyster and then sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese. Place appetizers on a decorative serving tray or plate and serve immediately. Makes 12 appetizers.

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