( As received in our e-mail in-basket folks! Amidst much laughter...)
The cooking experience that I had on 2-15-04 is one I will not soon forget. I had decided to use the recipe for Hushpuppies in the recipe book at rtfi.us. It seemed fairly simple, and I love to eat hushpuppies, so why not.
Before I get too far into the story you must understand I CAN COOK. I get into cooking competitions with the Indiana State Culinary Champion, he lives next door and I can hold my own fairly well. This was just not my night.
That being said I printed the recipe off of the site and noticed I was missing some ingredients which were listed and knew I could not substitute with something else so my wife went to the store with our 131/2 month old son who had not taken an afternoon nap and needed one badly. He usually sleeps well in the car after a short drive so she took him with her. I knew it would be a little while before they were back because she wanted to drive thru a car wash and a few other things while she was out so I called my buddy Rocky to shoot the breeze a little while and fold laundry, pick up toys and just general stuff.
After some time had passed I called her cell to find out how things were going and was informed that they were sitting in the Kroger parking lot while he finished his nap and she put some finishing touches on her Masters Paper. I thought that was very smart on her part knowing she would have some downtime to do such tasks. I asked her to keep me posted so I could start getting other things prepared for supper.
I started to watch Little E. smoke everyone in the final laps of the Daytona 500 and still had not heard anything from Sheila; no problem I thought while starting to locate all of the dry ingredients from my spice racks and pouring a measure of vegetable oil into a large saucepan for the hushpuppies. This is where I should have gone to bed and slept until the next day.
A little more time had passed and I called Sheila again to make sure all was well and she replied that everything was fine and they were in the store. I was happy that all was well and said that I would start the oil warming, so I could start cooking as soon as I had the rest of the ingredients. She said ok and continued shopping.
The menu consisted of seared Mediterranean style salmon, vegetables and hushpuppies. I had everything ready to go except the batter for the hushpuppies, which my wife (a.k.a. Pretty Lady) was getting the missing ingredients for. So I started taking a closer look at the recipe and noticed a few things were missing from the ingredients list that were in the cooking order. ( I am going to trust that Rocky being the nice guy he is will not edit the current recipe, but maybe ad it here for sake of argument and laughter.) I began to wonder how much onion and seasoning salt to add but decided to do it to my taste since that is what I normally do. I also added paprika, chili powder, adobo, garlic powder, just a lot of yummy stuff. At this time I also tested the oil to make sure it was hot enough to fry the hushpuppies with a little cornmeal, satisfied with my results I covered it with a lid and waited for Pretty Lady and Big Boy to get home.
Some time had passed until they arrived and I still had the oil on the flame with the cornmeal crumbs in it they arrived and I began making the batter. All the dry ingredients went perfect and right before I added the milk and egg portion I had realized I had doubled the milk on accident. My wife said to just make some scrambled eggs with it and start over again, which I did and watched my son inhale them as he always does with scrambled eggs with garlic pepper and rosemary. Now that I had the ingredients corrected and the batter to a wonderful consistency, I lifted the lid on the hot oil. Folks I have never seen so much smoke come out of that saucepan ever. So I turned the heat way down and turned the exhaust fan on in a big hurry. Pretty Lady and I had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t too bad and to go ahead and make a few hushpuppies, so I put a couple of spoonfuls of batter into the oil. Needless to say they were done way too quick and burnt on the outside which did not help the smoke issue we were having. When I decided to try one of the burnt puppies I discovered that they were very tasty and only the very outer skin was scorched. I was trying to think of a way to get them out of the oil faster (the smoke was really getting bad now I was starting to choke) so I got my (plastic) pasta spoon. Smiling about my idea and coughing the whole time I put another spoonful in the oil, and tried to retrieve it with my trusty pasta spoon that melted in half while trying to retrieve yet another burnt puppy.
Something suddenly went off in my head and I evacuated my wife and son to another room of the house that wasn’t smoke filled and took the hot oil outside into the snow and employed my industrial shop fan and a pedestal fan to blow the smoke out of the back door, on top of opening most of the windows in the house on a 30 degree night. It really was not my night.
After the smoke cleared and I stopped choking I started the salmon and vegetable portions and got yet another pan to warm some oil in I simply would not rest until I had some type of hushpuppy that was not smoking. I did not use a lot of oil this time because I was using a much shallower pan, and the directions say to use a thicker batter when cooking hushpuppies this way. Due to the fact I was not having a good night to begin with I decided not to try and thicken the batter and just play the cards I had which turned out to be a surprisingly wonderful creation that I will call skillet biscuits. The rest of the meal went well and a feast was enjoyed by all.
This proves many points that failure has its positive points when you persevere and do not give up.
Editor & Head Hushpuppy Chef's Note ~
As best I can tell there were but a few small sins committed here folks.... Aside from Sheila turning Chewy loose in the kitchen that is...
Thou should not turn the flames on under the pan, before all ingredients are at least, in the house!
Thou should always use a thermometer to monitor your oil Temperature, maintaining 325o and 375o Fahrenheit.
Thou should NEVER stick a plastic pasta spoon, designed for temps of about 250o, into a pot of 400o cooking oil.
Utilization of the smoke alarm as an indicating factor of completion of the cooking processes is not recommended. EVER!
As for comments above on the Onion and Seasoning Salt... I typically use the left over breading from battering my fish to fry, wherein recommendations on seasoning salt are offered in the Deep Fried Fish recipe, otherwise as noted above "Season to Personal Preference". And, in using left over batter... the amount of onion used is totally dependent upon how much batter is left over to make hushpuppies, and again a matter of personal preference. If you like onions, knock yerself out, eh! If you don't like onions, leave 'em out; they're optional y'all!