Sunday, February 16, 2014

Crab and Bacon Hush Puppies with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Day 60

For this Valentine’s Day, I originally made dinner reservations for two at a local country inn, but then decided to do a family dinner at home. My rationale was that we could eat much cheaper for up to seven people if I made a special home cooked meal, including the wine, champagne, and beer. 

The kids set the table, replete with all the candles they could find. We lowered the dining room lights, filled the glasses with sparkling wines and mineral waters, pulled out the good napkins, and our much more cost-effective take on a 5-star dining experience had begun. Okay, it was really closer to a 2- or 3-star, but that’s neither here nor there.
Photo by Ali Kapustin

To begin choosing a menu, I did an Internet search for what some of the local restaurants were serving for Valentine’s dinner, and I went about creating my own menu. I chose to make an appetizer of crab and bacon hush puppies with homemade tartar sauce, a second course of goat cheese field green salads with homemade pretzel roll croutons, praline pecans, and a homemade balsamic honey vinaigrette. I opted for a main course of prosciutto and Gouda stuffed chicken breasts and roasted green beans atop a bed of smoky creamed potatoes, all smothered in a shallot and chive cream sauce. For dessert, we made mini-chocolate salted-caramel tarts, sprinkled with pralines and finished with a generous dollop of whipped cream.  

Overall, I think our family and guests were pleased, and I’d say it was a hit. Because we weren’t planning on sharing any Valentine recipes for the blog today, I didn’t ask Doug to photograph the meal. But, my stepdaughter, Ali, was kind enough to take some impromptu shots with her phone that I’ll use here to show the hush puppy recipe I’m sharing today. 

About these hushpuppies—they were delicious, and so easy to make. Since I wanted to prepare an appetizer that was a variation on the traditional Southern hushpuppies of my childhood, I turned to Paula Deen. Her repertoire of outstanding Southern fare is always extensive, and frying is definitely her specialty. If you’re ever in need of a good twist to most Southern dishes, she is your go-to girl, for sure. I found the recipe quickly, and immediately knew it was the one I wanted to use. I did make a couple of changes to suit our menu, but they were subtle. Paula’s original recipe can be found at this link in case you’d prefer to make it exactly to her recipe:
Photo by Ali Kapustin

When we think of frying, often we assume that we need a deep fryer. That’s not the case at all. In fact, growing up, the best fried foods I ever ate at my grandparents’ tables were made in a cast iron skillet. For less mess, I’ll recommend that you fry these crab hush puppies in a Dutch oven since it’s deeper, but that’s up to you. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Just have a slotted spoon ready to remove them from the oil when they are ready and a plate with several layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Have salt at the ready to sprinkle on them while they are still hot and wet with oil too. 

Although you do have to be careful with overheating oil, if you don’t have a thermometer to test it, it’s okay. When you think the oil might be hot enough, just drop a tiny bit of the batter in it and see if it immediately begins to fry and floats to the top. If so, you’re ready. If it just sinks to the bottom and stays, as if in water, it’s not hot enough. Contrarily, if the batter immediately spatters and pops, it’s too hot and the temperature needs to be lowered. 

Crab and bacon hushpuppies can be prepared and ready to eat in less than 30 minutes, so you want to have the tartar sauce prepared before you begin the frying process. Naturally, these appetizers are best served hot. 

Here’s hoping you had a lovely Valentine’s Day and that you enjoyed some really good food with someone you love. Of course, if you’re a food lover like I am, you won’t wait for Valentine’s Day each year to do that. I hope you will try these for your next special dinner, no matter the occasion. 

Crab and Bacon Hush Puppies with Homemade Tartar Sauce


Frying oil (best with a blend of soybean and peanut oils)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbs. dried chives
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic pepper
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup sour cream
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup very fine bacon crumbles
1 cup fresh blue crabmeat

In a Dutch oven, heat oil to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, chives, baking powder, salt, garlic pepper, baking soda, and cayenne pepper.

In a small bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream. Add to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in onions, garlic, bacon, and crabmeat. 

Dip a tablespoon in water, then scoop a spoonful of the hushpuppy mixture. This will allow the batter to easily fall from the spoon. Drop by tablespoonfuls into hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, lightly salt, and serve immediately. Be sure not to crowd the hushpuppies as they fry. This batter will make two frying batches for a large Dutch oven. 
Serve with tartar sauce. Recipe below. 

(Hushpuppy recipe compliments of

Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tbs. drained dill pickle relish
1 tbs. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. coarse-grain mustard
¼ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate until ready to use. 

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