109. Hushpuppies–The Best Use of Corn Since Bread

4 Sep

Hushpuppies by Sugarcrafter—click for recipe.

I recently dined at a place that sounded awesome on paper: Southern small plates. Which I realize sounds like an oxymoron to some and a tragedy to others, but small plates are all the rage here in Seattle. The concept comes to us from Spain where small portions of scrumptious appetizers (called tapas) are ordered and shared amongst friends. The plates tend toward the $3 to $5 range and you might need four or five to make a meal for two, which would make for an economical evening out were it not for the tasty (and spendy!) libations. (My friend Karen introduced me to a great Spanish tapas place recently, and I couldn’t resist saying, “Why, yes, I do believe I will have another lemon drop!” Fresh squeezed lemon juice, vodka, and a sugared glass rim. What’s not to love? Unless you’re Baptist, in which case the answer is “vodka.”)

Ok, back to the hushpuppies, y’all…

They looked sort of like these,
but slightly more burned
and the sauce had an orange hue.

So at the Southern small plates joint the first thing I ordered was hushpuppies. This is a mistake I’ve made repeatedly in Seattle, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to receive five overcooked spheres of dough, each roughly the size of a gum ball. Maybe a jumbo gum ball, but still. I’m not usually a numbers person, but I couldn’t help doing the math: this $6 plate worked out to $1.25 per hushpuppy. This might have been ok had they been delicious or even edible. Upon taking the first bite, I discovered that the “hushpuppy” interior was an odd shade of orange speckled with bits of red bell pepper (a departure from the typical Seattle hushpuppy add-in: jalapeños). Despite the peppers, the hushpuppy was oddly flavorless, not to mention DRY, but I guess I just did. Perhaps that’s why they were served with a dipping sauce. I dunked the second hushpuppy in the orange dipping sauce, which rendered it even less appetizing than the first. Ick! I’d go on recounting the culinary infractions at this particular establishment, but that would require thinking about them again. In retrospect, I should have known the place would be a disappointment when I saw the dessert selections, which included: fruit cobbler, cheesecake, and ice cream. Fruit cobbler and ice cream (priced separately!) might pass, but I’ve never considered cheesecake to be a Southern delicacy. Delicious? Indeed. But not Southern, y’all.

Now that I’ve rambled on about what all hushpuppies are not, I’ll attempt to explain what they are. Your basic hushpuppy features a batter made from cornmeal, flour, and milk. Some people add an egg or occasionally a diced onion. You drop a blob of batter into hot oil and in a minute or two you’ve got a moist, delicious—if somewhat bland—hushpuppy. Sometimes they’re roundish, sometimes tubular, sometimes abstract shapes, but usually, yes, a little bland. That’s how we like ‘em, y’all!

What tends to give Southern hushpuppies flavor is that they’re fried in the same oil as the catfish. According to my dad, hushpuppies were invented at a fish fry on account of a yapping dog. Supposedly, the cook dropped some catfish batter into the oil, tossed it to the dog and said, “Hush, puppy!” Various versions of this tale exist on the Internet, but it seems a bit farfetched to me. I mean, who first wrestled the fried dough away from the dog and decided it tasted good? And also, anyone who’s dealt with dogs at suppertime knows that tossing food at them doesn’t make them hush for more than a moment. After that, they commence to begging more loudly and aggressively than ever. So this may or may not be how hushpuppies were invented, but it does make a great story for kids.

In Seattle where there’s a dearth of catfish, you’ll generally find hushpuppies served as a side with BBQ (not a bad idea—Southern restauranteurs take note!). After my seemingly endless convalescence last summer, my friend Linda kindly took me to a BBQ place in the next town over (recommended by my friend and fellow Southern small plate victim, Tricia). Lo and behold, it was the first place in Seattle where the pulled pork didn’t require sauce. Better still, the tender, smoke-infused meat was served alongside some large, fluffy hushpuppies! Made from scratch, fried to order, and dusted lightly on the outside with a little salt. Yum! They come with the meal, and you can get an extra side of five hushpuppies for $3. Twice the size of the trendy joint, half the price, and 100 times tastier.

What’s your favorite place to get hushpuppies? Are there any BBQ joints in the South that serve them? Please name names, seeing as I get back for a visit at least once a year.

Photo credits: Hushpuppies by Sugarcrafter, Other Hushpuppies by Martin & Jessica O’Brien–Flickr Creative Commons, Slap-yo-mama Hushpuppies by Jeff Balke–Flickr Creative Commons, Hushpuppie sign by pecanpieguy–Flickr Creative Commons.

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30 Responses to “109. Hushpuppies–The Best Use of Corn Since Bread”

  1. Chris September 4, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Two favorite places for hushpuppies – Boyette’s on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tn and Olive Branch Catfish Co. in Olive Branch, MS near Memphis.

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Thanks! My sister used to live in Olive Branch. Small world.

  2. Todd Pack September 4, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Bless that cook’s heart, but those aren’t hush puppies. It makes me think of that old George Carlin routine about his mom being a terrible cook. He always wanted to ask, “Did you get this recipe out of a cookbook? Was there a picture? Did it look like this?” Clearly, you were given hush puppies cooked by someone who has never seen one.

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      The cook might have encountered a “hushpuppy” at another Seattle dining establishment. Just about every one I’ve seen here looks exactly like that pic. Sad. Love the George Carlin bit!

  3. vintageyall September 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Mmmmmm, love me so good hush puppies with fried fish at the lake. Of couse, I haven’t had that since I was 10 years old, but it was so good, I am still craving it. YUM!

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Get thee to a hushpuppery! Right quick like!

  4. Elisabeth September 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Just got back from Calabash, NC where we enjoyed baskets full of hushpuppies. All of them were delicious and are complimentary with the meals at the seafood restaurants. We also had our fill of fried shrimp, which Calabash is famous for! Yum!! My son (age 2) calls them hush-up-puppies, since “hush up” is common backtalk here instead of “shut up” he thinks it’s pretty funny to be allowed to say “hush up” anything. 🙂

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      Love your son’s name for them! A friend of mine here once mistakenly referred to them as “puff daddies,” so that’s what I call them now. Thanks for the tip on the fried shrimp! Another fine Southern delicacy.

  5. Breenie September 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Greenbriar BBQ in Alabama. Yum!! Catfish ain’t bad either! Also, Nick’s in Carlisle, Arkansas.

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks! Looks like I’ll be needing to take a Southern road trip!

  6. Hope September 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    My Dad makes the best hushpuppies ever. Actually, my Mom makes the batter, and Daddy fries them up outside in the cooker after the fish have finished. I’ve never seen them served with Barbecue – only seafood.

    I ate raw oysters this past weekend with a side of fried okra, but no hushpuppies this time. Now you’ve given me a hankerin’ for them!

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      That’s the best use of teamwork I’ve heard of in quite some time!

  7. Hippie Cahier September 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    I really shouldn’t have read this so close to dinner time as I’ve no idea where to get good hushpuppies anymore, plus I still have to drive home, which means I’d have to have the Southern Baptist version of the lemon drop. It’s so good to see you!

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      Thanks, Hippie! That gives me an idea. Next time I’m dining in the South, I’m going to ask for a “Southern Baptist Piña Colada” (or margarita, etc.). I’d try it here, but would be guaranteed a blank stare.

  8. Tammy Wade Tadlock September 4, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Making me huuunnngggrrrryyyy.

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

      Yay! Glad to get you back for all your mentions of yumminess on Facebook! Miss you!

  9. Debbie Pendell September 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Kim,
    In North Carolina, I can’t think of a barbecue restaurant that doesn’t serve hushpuppies. Wilbur’s in Goldsboro, NC and any restaurant that serves Lexington Barbecue – Hill’s Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem, NC and then of course any of the restaurants in . . .Lexington, NC. As you travel from one side of the state to the other, the barbecue will vary but you will always get those wonderful bite size pieces of heaven – hushpuppies. Love them!

    • Kim Holloway September 7, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      Wow! I’ve got to get myself to N.C. one of these days!

  10. adventuresinkarma September 5, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Oh, dear. You poor thing. If you ever find yourself in Northwest Arkansas, you must find your way to The Catfish Hole. Amazing catfish, but the best part is the all you can eat fixins. All. You. Can. Eat. For free: sweet green tomato relish, dill pickles, cole slaw, and the most amazing hush puppies on earth. Did I mention all you can eat?

    • Kim Holloway September 7, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      All you can eat hushpuppies? Count me in! Who needs catfish? More room for hushpuppies!

  11. reelingintheyears.wordpress.com September 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    DItto Calabash above! And many of the wonderful hole n’ the wall NC barbecue joints…hilarious as always, Kim!

    • Kim Holloway September 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

      Thanks! I’m really going to need to spend some time in NC…

  12. Nolan Bailey, Sr. September 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Man can not live by hushpuppies alone, he must have fried catfish. And, only a dang gummed Yankee does not put onions in the hushpuppies. In fact, hounds love onions…so.

    • Kim Holloway September 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

      Hounds love onions? Good to know. My dad’s jack Russell terrier loves bacon and biscuits. Oh, and cat poo.

  13. new to the south September 25, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Hey Kim,
    I’ll be taking a brief trip to Seattle next month. Do you know the name of the bbq place with the good hushpuppies? That would be so awesome to find decent southern food there 🙂

    • Kim Holloway September 26, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Hey Jil, it’s Smokin’ Pete’s in Ballard (a neighborhood that’s about 15 minutes from downtown). The website is http://www.smokinpetesbbq.com, but I couldn’t connect to it just now–not sure why. It’s at 1918 Northwest 65th Street, Seattle (206) 783-0454. The BBQ can be a little hit or miss, but the pulled pork is usually pretty good. I’ve never had a bad hushpuppy there though. If you’re staying downtown, the Icon Grill does an awesome meatloaf and pretty tasty fried chicken. Don’t make the mistake of ordering the chicken fried steak though, as it bears little similarity to the Southern dish of the same name.

  14. neiedcp@gmail.com December 16, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    109. Hushpuppies–The Best Use of Corn Since Bread | stuff southern people like

  15. gmucliylkow@gmail.com March 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    109. Hushpuppies–The Best Use of Corn Since Bread | stuff southern people like

  16. foqgkysedp@gmail.com May 13, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    109. Hushpuppies–The Best Use of Corn Since Bread | stuff southern people like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Rerun: 16. Catfish (The “Deep-Fried” is Implied) | stuff southern people like - June 25, 2013

    […] swooning over salmon, my peeps back home are loyal to the good old-fashioned fried catfish. With hushpuppies (which one of my Seattle friends mistakenly called “puff daddies.” Of course, the name […]

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