Enjoy these Southern summer dinner staples

In the summertime, we all like to eat fried fish and all the side dishes that go along with the fish. Some people make slaw, fries with white and sweet potatoes and, the most important side dish, the hushpuppies.

So many people think their recipe is the best in the world – and most of the time, you could use their hushpuppies for golf balls. Everybody has a family recipe that they grew up with, and that’s what they eat when cooking fried fish.

In the Mallory Manor Tea Room, on Friday evening we had fresh catfish, slaw, fries and hushpuppies, all cooked outside in the summer kitchen in black pots full of lard. We served that up with hot rolls and with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Lots of people would come and sit outside. They wanted that delicious food fresh out of the pots and would eat on outside tables covered with newspapers. Hushpuppies were ready almost all day. We’d keep a pot of turnip greens cooking and have them ready around 11 a.m. People would be calling and placing orders for country ham hush-puppies before 9 o’clock in the morning.

This was 20 years ago, and a large bowl of turnip greens and hushpuppies cost $5.

Large tubs of fresh turnip greens were stemmed and washing in three waters to be sure all sand was off the leaves, and the large stems were stripped out of the leaf. I took all afternoon with three people looking at each leaf, washing and packing them in plastic bags to be ready for cooking by 7 a.m. the next day.

These hushpuppies are amazing. This is a three-part recipe – the hushpuppy base, the pimento cheese mixture and a dipping sauce to go alongside.

Hushpuppy Base

2 scallions, finely minced

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup fine cornmeal

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. honey

½ cup buttermilk

1 egg

Pimento Cheese Mixture

1 tsp. chopped garlic

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp. dill pickle juice

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. hot sauce

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. cracked black pepper

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

4 oz. pimento chopped

Comeback Sauce

For dipping

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup garlic-chili sauce

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

½ cup ketchup

¾ tsp fresh black pepper

1 tbsp. hot sauce

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 small onion, finely grated, with juice

1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients of hushpuppy base recipe. In a smaller bowl, combine honey, buttermilk and egg, then stir into dry mix until fully incorporated.

For pimento cheese, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, pickle juice, mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a large bowl to make a paste. Fold in cheese and pimento until fully incorporated.

For the comeback sauce, puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

To cook the hushpuppies:

Pour three inches of canola oil into a deep skillet, or enough oil to cover the hushpuppies. Heat to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix pimento cheese into hushpuppy base using a whisk. The mixture should be scoopable and hold its shape. If the batter is too thick, stir in a little more buttermilk; if too thin, add cornmeal to thicken.

Drop mixture by tablespoons into the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crisp on the outside, about two to three minutes.

Serve warm with the comeback sauce.

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