Legend has it that not long after the war Between the States, Southern cooks would quiet yapping dogs at fish fries by tossing them scraps of batter and yelling, “Hush, puppies!” Whatever the origin of the term, it’s for sure that fried hush puppies are one of the great breads of the South and that no fish fry, barbecue, seafood boil, or Brunswick stew party would be right without them. It’s also true that I’ve spent my entire life not only looking for the perfect hush puppy but also trying to produce an ideal batch myself. At one point, I thought a catfish restaurant in Natchez, Mississippi, called Cock of the Walk had the quintessential formula and technique—until, that is, I swooned over the small dodgers at the Center Pier restaurant in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, then those at a church barbecue in Brunswick, Georgia, and, most recently, at Ella’s seafood restaurant in Calabash, North Carolina. The quest for great hush puppies often seems part of the Southern soul itself, and once you sink your teeth into a crusty, greaseless, well-flavored, piping hot pup, you’ll understand why. Be warned that nothing is worse than a cold hush puppy, and also be warned that guests gobble down good pups as fast as you fill the basket. And, yes, the best hush puppies do contain a little sugar.
Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix to blend thoroughly. Add the onions, milk, vegetable oil, and egg and stir with a wooden spoon long enough just to blend well.
In a deep-fat fryer or deep cast-iron skillet,
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