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Mountain Oyster Fry takes a light-hearted approach to a ranching tradition.
Photo: Charlie Johnston
Call them what you like: mountain oysters, sheep fries, ranch delicacies—they’re still sheep testicles. But once visitors to Virginia City’s annual Mountain Oyster Fry get over that potentially disturbing fact, they find the quirky festival—and unorthodox fare—rather delightful.
At the event that coincides with Virginia City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, nearly a dozen vendors pitted their mountain oyster recipes against one another. Most cooks stuck to the festival’s namesake and the most common preparation: frying. One booth, manned by the Virginia City high school baseball team, used a tempura-style batter while another flattened them (presumably to make them look more like oysters) and used a traditional oyster breading. Others ground them up and made chili, one group fried meatballs made with ground testicles, breadcrumbs, corn, and peppers, and another made a curry. One group took a gourmet approach and sautéed them in a French pinot grigio sauce. The group from Virginia City’s own Bucket of Blood Saloon wrapped theirs in bacon before deep frying them, giving credence to the long known fact that just about anything tastes great when it’s wrapped in bacon—and/or deep fried.
The stands opened for sales at noon and at $1 apiece, nearly every vendor was sold out in slightly more than an hour.
As the about 200 people at this year’s event can attest to, mountain oysters aren’t a food to be feared, and if you’ve ever had clams, mussels, or oysters, you wouldn’t have any trouble with the chewy texture. The taste is probably more palatable than many people find the preceding list of seafood: not entirely dissimilar to organ meats, but surprisingly muted. In all honesty, the testicles are marinated so long or are paired with such strong spices, that little of the meat’s actual flavor ever gets through to any but the most discerning of palates.