Hush Puppies Y’all

It’s funny to think that the words that we use everyday can be considered historical relics. We forget that our day-to-day vocabulary is peppered with expressions and phrases that preserve elements of our history, offering insight into the ordinary lives of our ancestors.

The ways in which we refer to different types of meat is a fascinating example of class and authority in English society during the 11th century.

Sheep, cow, ox all have an Ango-saxon root. In contrast, what we call meat once it gets to the table (boeuf, mutton, veal) has a French root. These differences emerged in the post Norman invasion of England. Those who were preparing the meat were Anglo Saxon commoners, hence why the names for livestock have retained an Anglo-Saxon origin. In contrast, the names for prepared meat have a French root because the meat would have already been prepared for and eaten by the Norman nobility and aristocracy (who spoke French).

All these musings on language are interesting segue into my bread of the month – hush puppies!

How deep fried cornmeal bread balls came to have the delightful name ‘hush puppies’ is an interesting insight into the folklore and cultural history of the southern part of the United States in the 1700s. There are several versions for how hush puppies got their name:

The one common thread is that this fried cornmeal was used to “hush the dogs.” I have heard that Confederate soldiers used it to hush their dogs when the Union troops were getting near. I also have heard a similar story in which runaway slaves would use this favourite food to hush the dogs. The characters change but the story is the same.

The link to the need to quell barking dogs is also found in this story:

Hushpuppies are also said to have gotten their name from the dredging of the catfish that would have been thrown out. Being thrifty, the cook from the house would send them down the slave quarters and the women added a little milk, egg and onion and fried it up. It is said they were tossed to the dogs to keep them quiet while the food was being transferred from the pot to the table. “Hush puppy! Hush puppy!”

There is also reason to believe that the name developed because refined southern ladies didn’t want to be known for eating fried dough which was considered lowly:

Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins cites a Southern reader’s account that in the South the aquatic reptile called the salamander was often known as a “water dog” or “water puppy.” These were deep fried with cornmeal dough and formed into sticks. They were called “hushpuppies” because eating such a lowly food was not something a Southern wife would want known to her neighbours.

If you’re interested, the second story appears to be the most accepted origin story.

My attempt

I made my hush puppies with a recipe from Joy.

I’ve never had hush puppies before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from them. The dough didn’t seem to bind together and when I put them in the deep fryer they kept on falling apart. But I did I managed to refine my spooning technique by the third batch.

Hush puppies don’t have a particularly strong flavour. There was a hint of spiciness from the cayenne pepper but not much else. If was going to make these again, I would chop up some jalapenos and add these to the dough for a fiery taste.

I served mine in true southern style – with BBQ pulled pork and coleslaw.

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Blue Cheese, Apple, and Chicken Stuffed Crêpes

This week’s mystery ingredient was Kapiti’s Kikorangi Blue Cheese.

The Kikorangi is quite a special cheese. It’s well known for being an absolutely gorgeous blue cheese and not surprisingly, its won it’s fair share of cheese awards in New Zealand.

I changed my mind a few times with what I would make with the Kikorangi. I put something up on twitter asking what I should do, and a friend of mine suggested blue cheese and pear cupcakes. I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes (I find them more icing than cake), but I thought it could be possible to make a pear cake and a cream and blue cheese frosting.

I described this cake idea to Joe and while he was keen on it, he suggested that I have a go at a more savoury dish. He reasoned that I had already done a lot of sweet recipes and a savoury might mix things up a bit. A fair point I guess.

I’m not used to savoury crêpes. I usually make sweet crêpes with lemon and sugar. I make them less because SOMEONE (hint: it’s Joe) isn’t as partial to crêpes as I am. I don’t quite understand how someone could not like crêpes – it’s like disliking kittens.

These crêpes, however, are worth a try. They are very rich, especially the béchamel sauce and the blue cheese. If you are going to make these, I would make sure they are eaten the same day. I found that as a work lunch the next day, they were just too rich. Definitely a dinner party type food I think.

Blue Cheese, Apple, and Chicken Stuffed Crêpes

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

Crêpes
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water (not cold)
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 t salt

Filling
3 cup cooked chicken
2 medium apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices
2 cups béchamel sauce
50 – 100g blue cheese
100g walnuts, roasted, chopped

Method

Crêpes
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place pan over medium heat and add small knob of butter. When the butter begins to colour, but not smoke add a small amount of batter and swirl it so it covers the pan in a thin coating. Flip the crepes over when bubbles begin to form.

Filling
Spread 2 – 3 tablespoons of the béchamel sauce in the centre of the pale side of the crêpes. Place the chicken on the lower third of the crêpes. Top with apple, blue cheese and walnuts. Roll up the crêpes and arrange seam side down in a prepared baking tray, Cover with the remaining sauce and cheese (if any left). Bake until the sauce is bubbly and lightly browned. Around 20 minutes.