STORIES THE VIEW UPSTREAM By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton 4 Great Recipes for Hushpuppies Crispy and brown on the outside, fluffy and light on the inside; browse through these four mouthwatering hushpuppy recipes and learn tips to make sure they turn out top-notch When fried fish or seafood is the entr'e, you can bet lots of folks will be serving hushpuppies on the side. (Keith Sutton photo) Read up on the history of hushpuppies and you’ll find lots of explanations for the origins of these delicious tidbits of fried cornbread. According to one story, hushpuppies originated in the 1700s when French nuns in New Orleans used cornmeal to make patties they called croquettes de maise, or corn croquettes. These golden-brown nuggets were so yummy, cooks across the South were soon making them. Another persistent tale claims African-American slaves added milk, egg and onion to the dredgings left over after frying fish. The resulting batter was dropped by spoonfuls into hot lard and fried, creating inexpensive pones to use as hand-outs for hungry children and dogs. Yet another story attributes the first hushpuppies to Confederate soldiers in the Civil War who created them to quiet their dogs when Union soldiers were approaching. And another claims hushpuppies were derived from the “redhorse bread” served alongside fried redhorse suckers and other fish eaten by folks in the Carolinas. The most common legend has it that while cooking over an open fire, a fisherman or hunter threw his whining, hungry canine friends bits of fried cornbread and a command to, “Hush, puppy!” Thus a Southern favorite got its name. No one can say with certainty which story is true, but those of us who love hushpuppies really don’t care. What we do know is this: hushpuppies are a must-have side dish when fried fish is the main course. We’d no more think of serving fried catfish or walleye or crappie without hushpuppies than we’d think about having cobbler without ice cream or a BLT without the B or L or T. Typical hushpuppy ingredients include cornmeal, wheat flour, eggs, salt, baking soda, milk or buttermilk, and water, and may include onion, corn, peppers or other additions. The thick batter is dropped a spoonful at a time into hot oil and fried. When properly cooked, the hushpuppies will be crispy and brown on the outside while remaining light and fluffy inside. A few things should be remembered that will help you prepare the best hushpuppies. First, don’t overmix the dry and liquid ingredients. Veteran hushpuppy cooks say you should stir no more than 10 times around the bowl—just until the dry and liquid ingredients are barely combined together. Overmixing creates a tough texture. You can cook hushpuppies in an electric deep fryer, but you may have problems with batter sticking to the basket. A cast-iron pot or Dutch oven works better, with a slotted spoon used to remove the hushpuppies as they get done. Be sure you use enough cooking oil to completely submerge the hushpuppies when you drop them in. Two- to 3-inch depths are usually about right. I use a metal teaspoon or tablespoon to dip up a rounded heap of batter, and dip the spoon in the hot oil before each scoop so the batter doesn’t stick. For best results, keep the oil heated to 375 degrees. If the temperature drops too low, the hushpuppies will absorb oil. If it’s too high, the outside of the hushpuppies will burn before the inside is done. Adjust the heat slightly up or down throughout the frying to keep the temperature at 375 degrees. And use a candy or deep-fat fry thermometer to be sure you get it right. Hushpuppies are usually done at the point you think they might need to cook longer—when the rough bumps or high spots are rich golden brown. Break one open to test it. The outside should be golden brown and crispy. The inside should be cooked completely through with no doughy spots, yet should remain light and fluffy. One of the best things about hushpuppies is the recipes for them allow a lot of experimentation. Adding new ingredients to the traditional cornmeal batter allows the ‘puppy chef to create new taste sensations to titillate the diners. You can keep everything plain yet delicious using the classic hushpuppy recipe below, try some of the jazzed up versions in the other recipes or give hushpuppies your own special touch by adding ingredients you and your dinner guests like. However you do it, you’re sure to enjoy these scrumptious additions to your next meal of fried fish or seafood. Classic Hushpuppies Recipe Yield: 10-12 hushpuppies Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 5 minutes Ingredients: 1 cup yellow cornmeal ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 1 egg, lightly beaten ¾ cup milk Vegetable oil Directions: 1. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and milk together, then add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. 2. Carefully drop a teaspoon full at a time into cooking oil heated to 375 degrees in a cast-iron pot or Dutch oven. Fry 2 to 2 ½ minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm. Peppery Hushpuppies Recipe Yield: about 30 hushpuppies Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes Ingredients: 2 cups yellow cornmeal ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 ½ teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning ½ cup buttermilk ⅔ cup water ½ cup melted margarine 1 egg, well beaten 1 cup grated onion 1 medium green pepper, finely chopped 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped Vegetable oil Directions: 1. Combine the dry ingredients. Add buttermilk, water, margarine and egg. Mix lightly. 2. Stir in onion and peppers. Carefully drop batter by teaspoonfuls into cooking oil heated to 375 degrees. 3. Fry 2 to 3 minutes or more until hushpuppies are golden brown. Drain well on paper towels. Cheesy Mexican Hushpuppies Recipe Yield: about 24 hushpuppies Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes Ingredients: ¾ cup yellow cornmeal 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ⅛ teaspoon red pepper 1 cup (4-ounce) shredded Monterey Jack cheese 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained 1 tablespoon minced onion 1 egg ½ cup milk Vegetable oil Directions: 1. Combine the first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the egg and milk. Add this to the dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. 2. Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches in a Dutch oven or pot. Heat to 375 degrees. Carefully drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into the hot oil. Fry a few at a time 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Bacon Hushpuppies Recipe Yield: about 20 hushpuppies Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes Ingredients: 6 slices bacon 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt ½ cup chopped onion 1 egg, slightly beaten 1 cup buttermilk Vegetable oil Directions: 1. Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Remove the bacon, reserving 2 tablespoons of drippings in the skillet. Drain bacon, and crumble. Set bacon and drippings aside. 2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in onion and bacon. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine egg, buttermilk and bacon drippings. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. 3. Pour oil to a depth of 3 inches in a Dutch oven or pot. Heat to 375 degrees. Carefully drop batter by tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Fry a few at time 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.