Tue Aug 17, 2010
With all this North Carolina talk going on around these parts, it'd be a disservice not to have sides with that, and when I think North Carolina barbecue, hush puppies are right up there with slaw as a must have on each plate. As a kid growing up in suburban Virginia, hush puppies were exclusively found in seafood establishments, and were the only redeeming part of them in my mind. This led me to think of hush puppies as lone wolves—the only thing edible from our otherwise horrendous outings to Red Lobster and Long John Silver's. It wasn't until I had them next to some chopped pork that they were reinvented in my mind as one of the greatest barbecue sides out there.
Hush puppies aren't much more than fried cornbread, and cornbread is great with barbecue, and frying just about anything makes it all the much better, so it makes sense these are a great pairing. The whole thing starts off with what is essentially a corn bread batter: corn meal and flour mixed leveners, salt, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and onion, which is the only newcomer to the cornbread party.
Of course, the extreme deliciousness comes from frying rather than baking the batter. When I went to fill up the dutch oven with oil, I saw I had some leftover bacon from a bacon barbecue sauce I had made a couple days earlier, so I took that quarter pound of salty awesomeness and rendered the fat out for use with the oil. Although bacon drippings are wholly optional, I contend it's what made these hush puppies extra tasty.
Once the oil and bacon fat mixture reached 375 degrees, the frying commenced. Rounded tablespoons of the batter plopped into the oil, puffing up almost immediately, then browning shortly after. Not using any type of device to evenly dispense the batter, my hush puppies ended up as amorphous blobs, an aspect I really liked about using the standard home tool of two spoons to get the batter from bowl to oil.
These were my very first hush puppies, and I was so excited to eat them I never stopped to think to present them more nicely than on the paper towels they drained on. Even so, I think they look like real beauties, and their taste was heavenly. They had a nice crunchy, brown exterior with a pillowy inside that had that great, coarse cornmeal texture. They were also seemingly grease free—I was able to pop one after another without ever needing to search for a napkin. They were served alonside Big Bob Gibson's pulled pork and North Carolina vinegar sauce, a true trifecta of barbecue greatness.
2 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Oil for frying
3 tablespoons of bacon drippings (optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add in the eggs, buttermilk, and onion and mix until just combined.
2. Heat the oil and bacon drippings, if using, to 375 degrees in a large dutch oven. Drop rounded tablespoons of the batter into the oil and fry until golden brown, flipping half way through cooking. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain, then serve immediately.