A Southern Treat in Scandinavia
Today we start this post with a confession. We were set to share a summertime salmon recipe, but Oli got nostalgic for a southern snack. Over the years, my friends and I have introduced this Icelander who lives in Sweden to some pretty interesting and enticing Southern culinary fare. One of his first true Southern experiences was a shrimp boil. You know, shrimp, corn on the cob, smoked sausage and potatoes all cooked up in one massive bubbling pot of Old Bay’s or Zatarain’s magic goodness. You should have seen his face when everything was spilled out onto a newspaper covered counter for everyone to dig in and feast on! With lots of bread to sop up the broth and to dip into bowls of melted butter, this was finger food at its best. (No forks allowed.)
Although a shrimp boil is at the top of his best-loved Southern food list, the other day it was hush puppies that were calling Oli’s name. It isn’t a Southern barbecue or fish fry without these little golden orbs of fried cornmeal batter with a crunchy outside and a moist, heavenly corn bread interior. They’re on the menu at seafood restaurants everywhere around here. Hands down we think the best hush puppies are served at a seafood restaurant down on the Chesapeake Bay. But this poor guy is in Sweden and is craving a taste of the South. So he simply went into his kitchen, made his own and to his delight, glorious hush puppies were born in Gothenburg, Sweden.
There are a few legends about the origins of hush puppies. One is that shortly after the war between the states, Southern cooks would quiet barking dogs at fish frys by tossing them scraps of batter and call out “hush, puppies!” Another goes that corn fritters were a staple on hunting trips. To keep the hungry, yapping hunting dogs quiet, they were given the fritters. Get it? “Hush puppies.” Another goes that fishermen would toss them to barking dogs, so they wouldn’t scare away the fish. Whatever their origin, these divine, slightly sweet, slightly savory morsels of fluffy cornbread encased in a crunchy shell are simply irresistible comfort food y’all.
Oli’s deep-frying rules
a. Make sure you use a large stock pot or Dutch oven. The oil should come up to just shy of half way in the pot. When the oil is heated to frying temperature it expands a little.
b. Don’t fry anything until the oil has reached 350F. When you fry in batches, make sure the oil temperature comes up to 350F between batches. Each batch will have cooled the oil. The more oil in the pot, the more stable the temperature.
c. Make sure that not even a drop of water comes into the cooking oil. Keep all water a safe distance from the pot.
d. Never leave the pot when deep-frying. Your kitchen can go up in a blaze in seconds.
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1¼ cups buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 cups vegetable oil
5. Clip a candy/oil thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat oil to 350F.
6. Dip a tablespoon into the hot oil, then scoop a spoonful of batter. Drop about 6 tablespoon-sized balls of better into the oil. (After a few dips into the batter, you will need to clean off the spoon with a paper towel.) Don’t crowd the pot. Drop about 6 tablespoon-sized balls of batter into the oil.
7. Fry until each hush puppy is golden brown. Use a spatula or spoon to turn them so that they fry evenly.
Remove the hush puppies from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain.
When the oil comes up to 350F again, you are ready to make the next batch.