In Southern from Scratch: Pantry Essentials and Down-Home Recipes, Ashley English teaches readers how to build a "from-scratch" Southern pantry with 50 recipes, and offers 100 additional recipes that offer new twists to Southern favorites. This book is full of fundamental recipes and opens up a world of Southern cuisine. The following excerpt is from Chapter 5, "Dry Goods and Sundries."
As with other corn-based breads of the South, the roots of hushpuppies lie in Native American foodways. Cornbread, grits, hoecakes, spoonbread, corncakes — these all owe a debt of gratitude to the cultivation of corn in the Americas. By integrating new means of preparing cornmeal with existing traditions, a host of unique breads were created in the New World.
These days, you can find hushpuppies across the United States. Many would argue, however, that none are as good as those cooked in the Southern states. Carefully guarded "secret" recipes abound, writes John Egerton in Southern Food. As with biscuits, many iterations and permutations for hushpuppies exist. Whether to include scallions, scooped into rounds or shaped into tubes, fried in peanut oil, lard, or vegetable oil — all possible considerations in an individual cook's hushpuppy-making practices.
The mythology around hushpuppies is that cooks frying up cornmeal-battered foods would toss some to their dogs with an admonishment to "Hush, puppy!" to placate the hungry, barking pups. Whether or not that's true, I can testify to the power of well-executed hushpuppies to soothe the savage beast. I hope mine offer you more than a little bit of comfort. Be sure to use new, or nearly new, baking soda and baking powder when making hushpuppies. Fresh leavening agents is key to their success.
- 1 cup fine-grind cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 cup Buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 Vidalia onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
- Peanut oil for frying
- Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and several grinds of pepper in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, onion, and chives.
- Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture, stirring just until all the ingredients are fully combined. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
- Pour 3 inches of peanut oil into an electric fryer, stockpot, Dutch oven, or other high-sided pot. Heat the oil to between 350 degrees Fahrenheit to 360 F and then hold the temperature steady in that range.
- Using a small ice cream scoop or melon ball scoop, drop rounded tablespoons of the batter into the oil. Aim to fry batches of eight hushpuppies at a time.
- Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, rotating the batter with kitchen tongs as soon as they begin to float. Once they're golden brown on all sides, use a kitchen spider or slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat until you have fried all of the batter. Serve immediately.
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From Southern from Scratch, by Ashley English, © 2018 by Ashley English. Photographs by Johnny Autry, © 2018 by Johnny Autry. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com.