Southern Hushpuppy Recipe
Hushpuppies are a Southern staple and I'm going to share a couple of techniques from my hushpuppy recipe.
My kids and their friends love coming around my house when we have a fish fry, not just for the fish, they really tear up on the hushpuppies. Plate after plate of hushpuppies fill the stomachs of the hordes of invading teenagers, keeping them at bay until the fish is ready.
That's a calculated tactic on my part. Same as we always had a sheet of biscuits ready before dinner, I have a few baskets of hushpuppies to fill them up before the expensive vittles hit the table. Because, like biscuits, hushpuppies are a cheap food that still tastes great.
So what you do is get a nice big mixing bowl and a bag of self-rising yellow cornmeal. You'll need some room temperature milk, buttermilk is best, whole milk works fine, skim milk works almost as well. An egg or two that's at room temperature and salt, fresh ground pepper, paprika, cumin, and I like adding a little fresh cilantro and a little turbinado sugar. Next you need some whole kernel canned corn, an onion, a bell pepper and whatever else you like. I also add chives, jalapenoes, and red chile peppers.
I can tell you right now that I don't bother with measurements. One of the best things about hushpuppies is that they're fast and you can just throw them together. So to feed ten hungry teens and the family, I dump a whole 1 pound of cornmeal in the bowl and throw an egg in. Then I add milk while stirring until the cornmeal is damp and lumpy and holds to the spoon.
I let that sit off to the side for a bit while I mince and finely chop my peppers, onions and chives then throw those in the bowl. I use a lot, for this size recipe, probably 2/3 to a whole vidalia onion, one to two bell peppers, five or six pickled jalapenoes and two or three red peppers. I also toss in a cup of the drained corn. I like seeing each of my ingredients in each spoonful of mix.
For the seasoning, remember that frying is going to take some of the seasoning away so don't be afraid to go a little heavy. I use a couple table spoons of sea salt and turbinado sugar, four to five table spoons of fresh ground black pepper, four or so spoons of Hungarian sweet paprika, a spoon of cumin and the tops of three or four cilantro stalks. If the mix isn't showing some color from my seasoning, I add more. Once everything is mixed up, it should still be a lumpy mix that holds to the spoon.
Now comes the two secrets to success. One is using cottonseed oil at about 325-350 degrees in a deep pan or a fish fryer. Cottonseed oil is what you use when you want the best hushpuppies or fried catfish. Other oils will work, but cottonseed oil is the right oil to use.
Two is do not under any circumstances roll hushpuppies by hand. The lousy hushpuppies you get in most resturaunts are lousy because somebody squashed the mix together by hand or machine. (Probably at the Lousy Hushpuppy Factory which I assume is located in New York City)
What you do is take a tablespoon and dip a spoonful up then drop it into the hot oil. Do not shape it or squeeze it, do not lay them out and roll them or anything else, just spoon it up and drop it into the hot oil. It's the air space inside that makes a hushpuppy such a wonderful thing.
You can cook a bunch at once, but it's best to cook one or two and time them, three to five minutes is usually about right. Once you've got the time right, you can cook a bunch at once, just don't add so much that it cools the oil below 325.
Once they're cooked up, take them out, set them on some paper towels or a rack to drain and let the eatin' begin!