Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hushpuppies: A Seafood Staple


As I may have mentioned before, I grew up on the beach in North Carolina. As such, I've been to a lot of seafood restaurants. The Wilmington, NC area has about a ton of mom-and-pop seafood restaurants, and my stepsister used to manage a high-end seafood restaurant in Ocean Isle Beach. As varied as these restaurants are, they have one thing in common-they serve hushpuppies as an appetizer. If you've never had these before or want to bring a 'touch' of the beach to your own home, here is a basic recipe.

1 cup cornmeal (my personal favorite is Dixie Lily cornmeal, but you can use any brand)
½ cup flour
1 egg
¾ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 or 3 tablespoons (or to taste) grated onion or onion powder
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Instead of the grated onion, you can also add black pepper or minced green onion. Some people use cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce for an extra 'kick'.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then, add the egg and buttermilk. While you are doing this, heat a deep fryer to about 375 degrees F (the same setting you would use for french fries on most fryers). You could also use hot oil or shortening in a heavy skillet. It doesn't really matter what you use, as long as it can hold enough oil for the hushpuppies to float when they're done. This is usually about 3 inches, but it can vary depending on the size of your hushpuppies.

For an additional 'seafood' flavor, some people use the oil they just used to fry catfish. You could probably also get away with cooking the fish and hushpuppies at the same time. I've never done that, though, so I can't vouch for it!

Spoon out batter into the oil. Usually I use a teaspoonful, but I've seen some people use a bit more. Fry until they float in the oil, or a to a golden brown color. Place on a plate with paper towels to cool and drain. This recipe makes about 24 hushpuppies. I would say this would work for about four people but, once you try these, you might not want to share!

If you are using self-rising flour or cornmeal, you can leave out the baking powder and baking soda. For a 'lighter' version, you can use peanut oil or another less-fatty oil. Many restaurants serve them with a sort of 'honey butter', but you can use plain butter or just eat them as they are. They go very well with seafood or Southern 'soul food' dishes, but can work with most any meal. Personally, I find them to be a good snack by themselves.

Now that you know how to make your own hushpuppies, you can bring a bit of the South or the beach to any meal. Your kids and friends will love them, and even your mother-in-law will have to stop complaining about your cooking! I'm just kidding on that last one, but the point is that these are something you can use to impress even the toughest of critics.

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