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Hush Puppies

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One of the first foods I fell in love with as a child was hush puppies (the other being mackerel, long story on that one). When I was a kid my parent’s would take us to a seafood restaurant where they would put a bowl of these little morsels on the table instead of plain bread. The restaurant was called the Family Fish House and was owned by Liberty Equities that went on to become Smithfield foods. I have no memory of eating anything else other than the hushpuppies, but they were so good that they have set the bar to which I judge all other hushpuppies. I have since had better, but mostly I have had worse. The hushpuppies at this long departed restaurant were small, as even at a young age I could easily pop one into my mouth, they were light in weight, but had a substance to them, and the flavors were of corn and a pleasant bit of onion. They were served hot with a crispy crust and there was never a drop of oil left in the bottom of the basket.

In the past most of the hush puppies I have encountered have been filled with other ingredients such as peppers, corn kernels, crawfish, and other extraneous ingredients (see Indigo Landings example below). To me, these ingredients take away from what a hushpuppy should be, so for me I cannot imagine perfection being reached that includes anything beyond corn meal and onion. But I am willing to be proven wrong. Another trend I have been seeing lately is serving hushpuppies with a dipping sauce. This does not make any sense to me, if made correctly, it should stand on its own.

We moved away from the area to a small town in Scotland, and when we returned three years later the restaurant had closed, and my search for the perfect hushpuppy began. Outside of the Carolinas my search has been quite futile. Some of the best I have had have been at various seafood shacks between Wilmington and Charleston (the best I have ever had were at Seewee in Awendaw, SC). My search has led me to develop what I think is a damned fine recipe. This has led me to understand why finding a perfectly made hushpuppy can be so difficult. If you fuss with the batter too much, they will become too dense, if the dough is too stiff they will be too dry. Also, since they require quite a bit of oil for properly frying them, they are a pain in the ass to make, leading me to look for other sources. Until recently, there have not been many options for hush puppies in the area, but lately I have been seeing them on more menus. So far this is what I have found in the area:

Taste of Carolina – Quite good, nice onion flavor, not too heavy, fried nicely. When I saw the large box that said “Hush Puppies” on the side of it, it was obvious that they are not made in house.

Indigo Landing – Very, but horribly dry, they came with pieces foie gras in them, but this added nothing to a horrible piece of dough.

King Street Blues – These were middling, not too heavy, could use a little more onion, but were undercooked. A dipping sauce is served with these hush puppies, and it improves it. This is something that should not be necessary for a really good hush puppy. These are not offensive, but nothing too memorable.

Clare and Don’s – These lacked any real flavor, I could not pick out any discernable corn flavor, and only the slightest bit of onion. These were also quite heavy, and too large, as they required two or three bites to eat them. While not as bad as Indigo Landing still not an example I would order again.

I will continue to try hush puppies when I see them. If anyone has any other examples that I should seek out, I would be grateful.

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If you're into deep frying at home, the best I have ever had are Malawry's. You could PM her over at eGullet for the recipe.

While I have a very good recipe that I have developed over the years, I am open to improving it. But as I mentioned, I was looking for an alternative to making them at home.

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I don't think I've ever had hushpuppies anywhere in DC but I am tempted to check out Taste of the Carolinas now.

One of my favorite parts about going to the beach with my family every summer is looking forward to the hushpuppies (and seafood) we'll have for dinner every night. Hands down my favorite hushpuppies anywhere (consistently tops for the past 20+ years) are those at The Crab Shack near Emerald Isle, NC. I was always raised with puppies served with butter/margarine for dipping and the tubs of Country Crock at Crab Shack last for at least 5-6 puppies.

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For you Maryland Suburbanites out there, there's a place on Route 198 between Ft. Meade and Laurel called Casey's Crabs that makes HUGE crabcakes and boxes of hush puppies to go. I honestly cannot tell you how they measure up to others because I am always so deliriously happy to have a hot box of puppies that they taste like the Best in the World. But if you're in that area, stop in and try them.

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I had some decent hushpuppies two nights ago at Tackle Box.

The best hushpuppies I've ever had were at the opening party of Sou'Wester. They've never been quite that sublime since, but they're still the best I can think of in this town.

I've never had them at G-SPOT, but I can't imagine anyone making them better than Gillian Clark.



Yep, the hush puppies at Sou'Wester are fantastic. Like good tempura, they are expertly fried to be surprisingly light and crisp (on the outside, soft and wonderful on the inside).

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