Try these hushpuppies for your next fish fry

By Nikki Miller-Ka, Nik Snacks

There’s nothing like a Friday night fish fry with a big ol’ table full of whole fried fish, crab legs, scallops, oysters, pinto beans, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, collard greens… need I go on? And a baskets of piping hot hushpuppies.

The National Onion Association takes pride in educating consumers about the multiple benefits of onions and promoting onions for their member growers. They are a resource for everyone who has ever encountered an onion. If you want to learn some cool, fun, unique facts about onions and where to find them, visit the website. While you get educated about onions, I’m going to educate you about these hushpuppies…

Calabash-style seafood is lightly breaded and fried and typically served buffet style.  The seafood is always accompanied by hushpuppies. Typically, cornmeal is used instead of flour to give the seafood a light coating.  The seafood is then fried in hot oil until it becomes golden brown. And crispy. And delicious. 

Calabash, North Carolina is where this style of seafood originated. Calabash has been known for its distinctive style of fried seafood since the 1940s, which has come to be known as “Calabash Style.”

Calabash-style buffets are common in many eastern Carolina coastal towns. As a kid, we’d vacation down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and we’d see restaurant after restaurant named “Calabash #10” or “Calabash #8” indicating the number of restaurants in succession in the area. These restaurants are literally a dime a dozen and #1 Is just as good as #38 (usually). For more information and where Calabash got it’s name, clickHERE.

For *my* hushpuppies, not only do I use cornmeal, I use stone-ground grits and self-rising flour to give the pups a boost in flavor, texture and optimum fluffyness in between the bits of tender diced onion. Any frying oil will do, but I have used vegetable oil, shortening and overall I prefer peanut oil to fry up these little guys.

Hushpuppies are small, deep fried morsels of cornmeal batter that are served with tartar sauce, ketchup or honey butter.

I spent over 30 years of my life, eating hushpuppies as part of our weekly fish night dinner. Typically, they’re made with yellow or white cornmeal, but the addition of grits gives texture and bite to an otherwise unremarkable piece of fried dough. Some put sugar in the batter. I don’t. Sugar caramelizes and makes the puppies dark and too sweet. If you feel compelled to add a little sweetness, I won’t judge. I promise.

My favorite part of the crispy, piping hot hushpuppy is always the little treat of diced onion inside. A dash of onion powder or garlic powder amps up the onion flavor. Chopped white onion is the best onion for the task of hiding inside these fried delights. Whenever I order hushpuppies at restaurants and they DO NOT have onion, I’m disappointed. It really is the best part.

Calabash Fish Fry Hushpuppies 

Yield: 14-16 hushpuppies

INGREDIENTS 

These hushpuppies come rife with diced onions and grits to make them extra special.

1/2 cup grits
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup white onion, diced
1/4 tsp course sea salt
Shortening or peanut oil for deepfat frying

1. In a bowl combine the grits, flour and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Add the egg, milk and diced onion to the grits and flour. Stir together just until moist.

2. Heat the shortening or oil until it is hot and shimmering (375°F is ideal). Drop the batter by tablespoons into the deep hot fat. Alternatively, spoon batter into a plastic zip-top bag, seal it and snip one of the bottom corners of the bag with shears and use it like a piping bag to drop dollops of batter into the hot fat. Fry about 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

3. Drain the hush puppies on paper towels and season with additional, to taste. Serve with honey butter, ketchup or tartar sauce. 

This blog was written by Nikki Miller-Ka, a chef and food blogger of Nik Snacks based in North Carolina.

Nikki Miller-Ka writes about her life as a professional chef, foodie, local and regional restaurant trends, food organizations, food producers and everything culinary on her blog, Nik Snacks. Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.  Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast.  She has worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Go to: http://www.niksnacksonline.com.

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Onions — Your Ally for Heart Health

Onions — what we like to call Nature’s Ninja — are prized not only for their flavorful addition to meals, but for their value-added health components. See video here.

Onions are high in vitamin C, a good source of fiber, and contain only 64 calories per 1 cup serving. In addition, onion bulbs have a unique combination of three families of compounds believed to have valuable effects on human health – fructans, flavonoids and organosulfur compounds.

Here are some excellent reasons to add onions to your meals to help keep your heart healthy this February and beyond:

— The organosulfur compounds are primarily responsible for the taste and smell of onions (and garlic). This compound has shown anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic activity, which means they may reduce the risk of blood clots associated with heart disease and stroke.

– The flavonoid quercetin is found in all onions. This flavonoid scavenges particles in the body known as free radicals which damage cell membranes. Studies have shown quercetin to protect against heart disease and several types of cancer with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

– Tip: To reduce the pungency, sharpness or aftertaste of a raw onion, cut them the way you plan to use them place onions in a strainer or sieve. Run cold water through onions for at least a minute.

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Managing weight with planning and produce

One of the main obstacles to weight management is not taking the time to plan and prepare healthier meals. Research shows us when people are able to cook their own food and eat at home their diet is typically lower in calories and higher in nutrients. Also, adding more nutrient-rich, low calorie fruits and vegetables to meals is one of the easiest ways to help control calorie intake.

Try to set aside an hour or so at the beginning of each week to plan out your menus and create a shopping list. Make sure to add in at least 5 daily fruit and/or vegetable options to pump up the nutrition.

Most people find the dinner meal is the most difficult to execute, especially after a busy day at work and with other family obligations. To take the hassle out of this equation we’ve put together a 7-day family-friendly dinner menu to get you started. Each meal is approximately 500 calories based on the portions indicated and we’ve included 2 servings of fruits and/or veggies in each meal. Enjoy!

7-Day Family-Friendly Dinner Menu:

Day 1: – 4 oz. – Roasted Pork Tenderloin

– 1 small Baked Potato topped with 2 T. light sour cream

– 1 cup – Broccoli Florets, sautéed with 1 T. olive oil

Day 2: – 1 serving – Frittata with Onion, Tomato and Basil

http://bit.ly/2JhAv8I

– 1 – Whole Grain English Muffin w/ 1 t. soft olive oil spread

– 1 cup -Fresh Berries

Day 3: – 1 – 4 oz. lean Hamburger on Whole Grain Bun

– 1 serving – Gazpacho Salad

http://bit.ly/2slSyT3

Day 4: – 1 serving – Cheese and Spinach Ravioli

– 1/2 cup – Veggie Pasta Sauce

– 2 cups – Tossed Green Salad with tomato and red onion; 2 T. Light Italian Dressing

– 1 cup – 1% Milk

Day 5: – 2 – Beef & Veggie Tacos

– 1/2 cup – Corn

– Sparkling Water with Lime

Day 6: – Garden Style Fish w/ Onions and Bell Peppers

http://bit.ly/2tS12Wl

– 3/4 cup – Instant Brown Rice

– 1/2 cup – Pineapple Tidbits

– 1 cup – 1% Milk

Day 7: – 4 oz. – Grilled Chicken Breast

– 1 Whole Grain Dinner Roll

– 1 serving – Grilled Vegetables w/ Balsamic Dressing

http://bit.ly/2uqGr8r

– 1 cup – Melon Chunks

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A little southern onion comfort food

Savory Onion Pie

By Nikki Miller-Ka, NikSnaks

I’ve taken all of the important and the subtle nuances of onions and layered them into this savory pie. It’s a cross between a classic southern tomato pie, a buttermilk pie and an onion tart. The caramelized onions start in a slow cooker with sherry and thyme (if you feel fancy). Overnight, the translucent petals of white, yellow, red and sweet onions melt, become bronzed and bathe in their own juices to produce a cohesive tangle of skins that are baked under a mayonnaise and Parmesan crust inside of a buttery pie shell and garnished with a little bit of fresh chopped chives. It’s super fantastic.

Onions are literally the foundation of most every savory dish. The classic mirepoix combo of onions, carrots and celery is the first thing culinary students around the planet begin their education and it continues on to how to slice, dice and add onions to everything. Raw diced onions garnishing a bowl of pinto beans is the comfort food of winter time blues while fried onion rings are always a treat at fast food establishments. 

I was inspired by a pie I had at a friend’s house. When I asked her for the recipe, I was surprised it was held together with just two eggs and a cup of Greek yogurt. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I went ahead to improve upon it. This pie literally has ALL OF THE ONIONS. They’re not cut with potatoes, loads of cheese, bacon or spicy peppers. It’s all onion, all of the time. A time-honored Southern-inspired pie, tomato pie, usually has a mayo and cheese crust and it’s baked until the center isn’t jiggly and the top is bubbly and brown. It’s a thing of beauty. 

BUT–The magic literally happens in the Crock Pot over the course of 5 hours or overnight. The beauty of this recipe is the same onions are also used to make the next recipe, Slow Cooker 5 Onion Soup (stay tuned for that gem).

Served with a fresh salad of mixed greens or kale, it’s the perfect light lunch or light dinner. 

Southern Savory Onion Pie 


Yield: 6-8 slices (per pie; 2 pies)

2 to 4 pounds white, yellow, red, and sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons cooking sherry

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
4 dashes hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula or Texas Pete)
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups caramelized onions
1 pie shell
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1. Transfer all of the thinly sliced onions to the slow cooker — the slow cooker should be half to three-quarters full.

2. Cook for 5 hours on HIGH or 10 hours on LOW.

3. Stir occasionally, if possible — this will help them cook more evenly, but is not necessary.

4. After 5-10 hours, the onions will be golden-brown and soft, and they will have released a lot of liquid. Remove onions to a large bowl and let cool.

5. If you like onions with a deeper color, continue cooking for another 3 to 5 hours on LOW. Leave the lid ajar so the liquid can evaporate. Check every hour and stop cooking whenever the onions look and taste good.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

7. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the cooled onions with yogurt, hot sauce, eggs and salt and pepper. Make sure all ingredients are well blended and then pour into 1 pie shell.

8. In a small bowl, mix grated cheese, mayonnaise, salt and pepper until well-blended. Spoon mixture on top of the onion mixture in the pie shell.

9. To prevent burning or over-browning the pie crust, cover the crust with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

10. Remove foil from the pie crust and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Garnish with chives, if using. Let cool for a few minutes to settle before slicing.

Pie can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

This blog was written by Nikki Miller-Ka, a chef and food blogger of Nik Snacks based in North Carolina.

Nikki Miller-Ka writes about her life as a professional chef, foodie, local and regional restaurant trends, food organizations, food producers and everything culinary on her blog, Nik Snacks. Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.  Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast.  She has worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Go to: http://www.niksnacksonline.com.

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Put French Onion Soup in your recipe repertoire

You’ve learned so much about onions, it’s now time to try the penultimate onion dish: French Onion Soup. Hightail it to the store and stock up with a good 5 pounds of onions.

We’ve got the perfect recipe.

French Onion Soup Gratinée

The use of chicken broth and white wine in this recipe makes for a lighter than normal French Onion Soup, but cookbook author Linda Carucci — and our millennial cook, Hannah, think it’s worth it. See how its done in this video.

Ingredients

5 pounds large yellow onions, sliced 1/16 inch thick

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup all purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine or vermouth

6 cups homemade chicken broth

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf, preferably imported

1 tsp kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

12 baguette slices (not sourdough), each ¾ inch thick and cut diagonally

6 ounces Gruyére cheese, coarsely shredded on the large holes of a box grater to yield 1 ½ cups

Directions

Heat a heavy 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add butter. When butter is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they wilt and lose their moisture (about 10 minutes).

Cook onions about 25 minutes altogether.

Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook until onions are caramelized (about 15 minutes). They should be sticky and clinging together. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine all at once. When wine evaporates, add chicken stock, and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so soup is at a steady simmer, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

The bay leaf and sprigs of thyme should be discarded after the soup has cooked.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and arrange an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Line a sturdy, rimmed backing sheet with a silicone baking liner or aluminum foil. Arrange 6 deep, ovenproof soup bowls or 12-ounce ramekins on the lined baking sheet and set aside.

Place the baguette slices on another baking sheet and lightly toast both sides under the broiler. They will need only 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside and leave broiler on.

When the soup is done, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top each with 2 toasted baguette slices placed side by side.Top the baguette slices with the cheese, dividing evenly among bowls.

Gruyere cheese and toasted French Bread top off this soup nicely.

Place the baking sheet with the soup bowls under the broiler and watch closely, moving the pan as needed to expose al the bowls to the broiler element so the cheese melts evenly. Remove from the oven as soon as the cheese has melted, a bout 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Copyright Linda Carucci, www.CookingSchoolSecrets.com. Permission granted for use in this National Onion Association blogpost. 

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