Hushpuppies are a quintessential American food. In fact, it’s origins are Native American since corn is a “New World” crop and many American indigenous people consumed a similar preparation that looked more like a pancake than a ball. Early European settlers in New Orleans adopted the use of corn to make many dishes. It is said that the Ursuline nuns who had come from France created the dish which they named “croquettes de maise”.
The preparation was quickly adopted by other inhabitants of New Orleans with each culture adding their own twist to hushpuppies. Eventually the recipe spread throughout the nascent American nation. According to the website “What’s Cooking America” “An African cook in Atlanta is said to have given the name hushpuppy to this food. When frying a batch of catfish and croquettes, a nearby puppy began to howl. To keep the puppy quiet, she gave it a plateful of the croquettes and said, “hush, puppy.” Since then the name stuck. This same story is also attributed to a Creole cook.”
Today hushpuppies or some form of them are popular in American restaurants, primarily in the South and it is an important part of African American cuisine. I am a big admirer of African American “soul food” mainly because it has many similarities to Portuguese cuisine. Hushpuppies are made with cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, eggs, and milk (or buttermilk). Variations include adding corn kernels, scallions, peppers and parsley.
The idea for my version came to me as I was making Portuguese codfish cakes, and rissoles on Superbowl Sunday. I was trying for a Portuguese inspired Superbowl Sunday spread and the idea came to me to that a chouriço hushpuppy might just work.
I tried to utilize Portuguese based ingredients like onion, garlic and parsley but something was missing. It needed subtle heat so I used jalapeno and while it gave me heat it didn’t give me the non-spicy pepper notes that makes certain hushpuppies so delicious. I tried adding some sweet green peppers along with the jalapeno but they didn’t give me the flavor burst I needed. I eventually settled on poblano peppers since they have subtle heat and stronger flavor than regular sweet green peppers.
Some things to consider before you make this. The ingredient measurements below may need adjustment depending on variations in relative humidity, the moisture content of the pepper or chouriço, the size of the eggs you use and even the coarseness of the cornmeal. Once you mix all the ingredients together you may need to add more cornmeal and flour or maybe more liquid to get the desired consistency. What you are looking for is a consistency of oatmeal. Just firm enough so that it holds up in an ice cream scoop and maintains its shape while frying. I made several versions using the same exact ingredients and every time there was variations in the thickness of the batter. You will have to experiment with it in real time, but hushpuppies are easy to adjust on the run. Start by frying a test hushpuppy and then adjust accordingly.
- 2 2/3 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/2 fresh poblano pepper finely diced
- 6 ounces chouriço finely diced
- 1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
- Oil for deep-fat frying
- In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Add the onion, garlic, poblano, chouriço and parsley to the bowl and mix. Whisk the egg and milk, add to the dry ingredients just until combined.
- In a large cast-iron or electric skillet, heat oil to 365°. Using an ice cream scoop (I use one that measures 1/8 of a cup) drop one into the oil and test for consistency and thickness. Depending on the outcome add more cornmeal and flour (in equal amounts) or more liquid (milk or buttermilk) to get it right. You are looking for a firm ball that doesn’t run or spread in the hot oil. Once you have it right add no more than four scoopfuls at a time into the oil. Fry until golden brown, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Let the hushpuppies rest for about 10 minutes before eating. If making ahead of time keep them in a warm oven (175 degrees Fahrenheit). Serve warm.