I have a distinct memory of a spring day in New York, back when I lived in Park Slope, at Brooklyn Fish Camp. Craig and I were sitting outside at a picnic table with benches and under that warm blue sky, the first of its kind after a harsh winter, a waitress presented us with the basket of hush puppies that we ordered. I didn’t know much about hush puppies; they just sounded good to me. And seeing them there in that basket–fluffy orbs of corn meal that had been deep-fried in oil–I suddenly felt the winter drop out from beneath me, and felt the heat of summer rising up at full blast.
Hush puppies have the power to do that. They speak of summer fairs and beaches and picnics and bottles of rosé and frisbees and The Beach Boys. And seeing as its almost June, the time to break out your bag of corn meal and your big pot of oil is now.
When I made smothered pork over rice for Craig’s parents, I started the meal out with hush puppies from the same cookbook: Real Cajun by Donald Link. You start by pureeing 1/2 an onion, a small jalapeno, scallions and parsley in a food processor:
Then you get your dry ingredients going: cornmeal, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, thyme and cayenne pepper.
You then combine milk and an egg in a bowl and add the vegetable puree:
Finally, you fold in the dry ingredients:
There you have it: hushpuppy batter. What’s great is you can let this batter sit in the refrigerator, covered, until you’re ready to use it. What’s not great is that, if you do this for a dinner party, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen frying hush puppies while your guests have fun.
Oh well. Heat 3 inches of oil in a pot and take the temperature (I use a digital thermometer) until it gets to 350:
After sitting in the fridge for a while, your batter will look like this:
I’ll be honest: I found the batter impossibly wet, so I added another 1/2 cup or so of flour until it thickened up a bit. Even then, it was really hard to fry this batter in the oil without making a mess:
But I think that’s how hushpuppies work. I watched a few videos on YouTube and saw other people struggle the same way; so just be careful as you pour the very wet hushpuppy batter into the oil. Try using an ice cream scoop or two spoons; just be sure when you drop the batter in, it doesn’t splash up and hurt you. You’ll get the hang of it by the second batch.
These fry for only 3 minutes or so, then you remove the hushpuppies with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate:
Despite the chaos of making them, they came out looking summery and festive. I served them on our coffee table with a bowl of the stray bits for snacking too:
Would I make them again for a dinner party? Probably not; too much work!
But on a chilly spring night, when summer still seems a long way off (even here in L.A.: hey, it can happen), I may break out my bag of corn meal and my pot of oil to remind myself of that optimistic, soul-warming moment at a picnic table in Park Slope. Hushpuppies spell summer.
Summary: Deep-fried balls of corn meal batter from Donald Link’s “Real Cajun.”
- 1/2 small onion, chopped (just to get it started)
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 1 bunch scallions (green and white parts), sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 egg
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Combine the onion, jalapeno, scallions, and parsley in a food processor or blender and pulse to a rough puree.
- Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, thyme, and cayenne in a small bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Add the vegetable puree and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. For the best results, refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes before frying.
- Heat 3 inches of oil in a 4- to 5- quart heavy pot (preferably cast iron) over high heat until it reaches 350.
- Working in batches of six, carefully add the batter to the hot oil 1 heaping tablespoon at a time; use another spoon to scrape it off, keeping it in a ball shape (if that’s possible; my batter was so wet, that didn’t happen!). Fry, turning, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain briefly. Transfer the hush puppies to a shallow baking pan and keep hot in a 200 degree oven while frying remaining batter (bring the oil back to 350 F in between batches).
I bet when sweet corn’s in season, you could cut some kernels off the cob and fold them into the batter here.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12