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 basket of piping hot hush puppies.
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 Hush Puppy recipe
Yield: 14-16 hushpuppies
1/2 cup grits
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
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.