Catfish Hush Puppies at Yonder
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Recipe courtesy of Yonder

Sweet Onion and Catfish Hush Puppies with Comeback Sauce

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 50 min
  • Yield: 16 hush puppies


Comeback Sauce:

Whipped Sorghum Butter:


Hush Puppies:


Special equipment:
a deep-fry thermometer
  1. For the comeback sauce: Combine mayonnaise, sambal, ketchup, lemon juice, hot sauce, smoked paprika, Worcestershire, garlic powder, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth and everything is well incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  2. For the whipped sorghum butter: Add the butter, molasses and salt to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or to a medium bowl if you're using a hand mixer or whisk. Mix on medium speed until well-combined and the butter is lightened and fluffy.
  3. For the catfish: Combine the catfish with salt and sugar in a bowl. Refrigerate.
  4. For the hush puppies: Combine cornmeal with sugar, salt, baking powder, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, black pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Whisk thoroughly to combine these dry ingredients. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in a separate bowl until there are no specks of egg and it becomes a smooth and homogenous mixture.
  5. Retrieve the quick-cured catfish from the fridge, and add the catfish and diced onion to the dry ingredient mixture. Quickly stir together to coat the onion and catfish bits with cornmeal and spices. Add the buttermilk and egg and mix quickly with a spatula or wooden spoon until everything is well combined and the batter stiffens up pretty quickly as the cornmeal soaks up the buttermilk. Cover your batter and refrigerate for a few minutes while you prepare your pot for frying.
  6. Add vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven no larger than 8 inches across—it's necessary for deep frying to have at least 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium heat, bringing it up to 350 degrees F, using a thermometer to check the temperature. (If you don't have a thermometer, you can tell that the oil is ready when you add a small pinch of flour and it immediately sizzles and fries. You can fry without a thermometer if you're feeling bold, but just be careful that your oil doesn't get too hot or cold—you could either burn your hush puppies or end up with greasy ones—and no one wants that!)
  7. Once the oil is up to 350 degrees F, pull your batter from the fridge and begin to scoop it into the hot oil. We like to use a 3/4-ounce cookie scoop, but you could also use two spoons to scoop and drop roughly tablespoon-sized dollops into the hot oil. Fry as many hush puppies as comfortably fit into the pot at once—they should definitely have some room to expand and get crispy. It's okay to fry in several batches.
  8. Fry the hush puppies for 2 minutes, then turn them over and fry until golden brown and fluffy on the inside, another 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider, moving them to a plate or tray lined with paper towels to help drain any excess oil. Sprinkle the hush puppies with a little salt while they're still hot. Repeat this process until all your hush puppies are cooked and seasoned.
  9. Pile the hushpuppies into a dish for serving and garnish with a nice sprinkle of the chives. Serve them nice and hot with 1 cup comeback sauce and 1/4 cup whipped sorghum butter, or your favorite sauces.

Cook’s Note

Comeback sauce is one of those delicious Southern secrets, simultaneously rich and light. It makes an excellent dip for anything savory, from french fries and chicken tenders to fresh raw veggies. It's great as a sandwich spread. You can use it anywhere you'd regularly use mayonnaise for a little extra pep and a smidge of heat. Try serving it with chicken wings instead of ranch, dressing your coleslaw with it for a pulled pork sandwich, or on your burgers and hot dogs at your next cookout. Sorghum molasses is a fantastic traditional sweetener in the South. Many folks couldn't afford to buy processed sugar back in the day, so they grew sorghum cane and made their own molasses instead. It has a beautiful acidity and a touch of saltiness in addition to its rich sweetness, making it a really fun and delicious ingredient to use. Sorghum butter is a fantastic condiment to have on hand. Its salty sweetness plays well with so many dishes and ingredients. Try it on pancakes and waffles for breakfast, serve it with your biscuits or cornbread in summer, finish a beautiful pork chop with a small dollop, or serve it on fresh grilled corn. This butter can be kept at room temperature for several days and used in its softened form, or you can stash it in the fridge to use later on. If you can't find sorghum molasses at your local supermarket, check a natural foods shop or order it online. Use blackstrap molasses if you must; just use a smidge less or your butter will be quite sweet. Hush puppies are a side with nearly everything where I grew up in eastern North Carolina—fried seafood, barbecue, sandwiches, fried chicken, you name it. I always loved squishing them into the juice from my coleslaw or eating them with the little pats of salted butter restaurants always gave out on the side—there's something so gratifyingly naughty about putting butter on fried food! We like to serve them with our comeback sauce, which is mayo-based but still packs a punch of acid and heat to balance out the richness. We also serve them with whipped sorghum butter to honor those naughty salted butter pats of my childhood. We like the sweetness of the sorghum molasses with the salty savory onion and cornmeal flavors. If your batter sinks to the bottom of the pot, wait for 30 seconds, then gently dislodge it from the bottom using a metal spoon or tongs—it should pop right up and float! You can make this batter a few hours ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, but any longer than that and the hush puppies will lose some of their puffiness.