Hush puppies, also called corn dodgers, are oblong cornmeal dumplings fried crisp in oil. They are conventionally served as a side dish for fried fish, usually catfish, and have culinary roots in the Southern regions of the United States. Acquiring a crisp, golden crust on the puppy concurrent with thoroughly cooking the interior is the greatest challenge of the frying process.
To make a hush puppy stick together and withstand the frying process, the batter has to be the appropriate consistency. Hush puppies are traditionally made from cornmeal, flour, eggs, salt, baking soda, milk and water. You have to adjust the wet ingredients until the mixture is dry enough to hold together while it's being fried but moist enough to produce a dumpling with a tender interior free of raw batter.
Use a neutrally flavored oil with a high smoking point such as peanut, vegetable or safflower. Heat 4 cups oil in a deep fryer or heavy-duty pot like cast iron or hard-anodized aluminum to a temperature between 360 and 370 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are heating the oil on a stovetop burner instead of a freestanding electric deep fryer, use a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature. Use one flatware tablespoon, not a measuring spoon, to scoop up a mound of batter and another tablespoon to gently slide the batter into the oil. The temperature of the oil will drop, so watch it closely and adjust it as necessary as you cook. When the hush puppy rises to the top, which only takes about 10 seconds, gently cook and turn it for about five minutes until it is golden brown on all sides. Let it cool for a minute and cut it open to see if the inside is done. If the dough is runny in the middle, reduce the heat by 10 or 20 degrees as you proceed to cook the rest of the hush puppies and increase the cooking time by a minute or two. Keep the finished hush puppies warm on a plate in a 200-degree oven.
Hush puppies can be fried in a skillet on a stovetop but will not have the uniformly crisp exterior achieved through deep frying. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy skillet to the same temperature used in the deep-frying method. Place the spoonfuls of dough into the oil and gently turn them with a slotted spoon as you cook them for 5 to 7 minutes until brown. Check for interior doneness and make necessary temperature and timing adjustments.
Tips and Hints
For spicier hush puppies, add a pinch of cayenne to the batter and for added flavor, mix a minced clove of garlic into the mixture. To encourage even cooking, don’t crowd the hush puppies in the deep fryer or skillet. If using a deep fryer, avoid using the deep fry basket because the hush puppies tend to stick to the interior and break apart when you try to remove them.
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