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Author Notes: Recently, I got to thinking about the deliciously spicy jalapeno-charged hush-puppies my husband and I enjoyed in Charleston, South Carolina on a long-ago visit, the sweet-corn-kernel fritters my mother used to make in my childhood, and South American arepas. It was difficult to decide where to take these: sweet or savory? Spicy or cheesy? Rustic or refined? I wanted to combine the light tenderness of classic Southern cooking with some crunch and heat and a hint of sharp cheese. Based on John Thorne's recipe for Texas Sweet-Corn Flapjacks in his book, "Simple Cooking", this recipe also takes inspiration from Mrs. Taft Walker's Hush Puppies in the book, "Charleston Receipts" by the Junior League of Charleston, and those in the "Joy of Cooking" (1981 printing). Pureeing the kernels minimally in a food processor avoids rubbery texture and maintains sweetness. I decided to beat egg whites to add tenderness and obviate the need for baking soda or chemistry class. Combining cornmeal and flour contributes crunch and lightness. With a brief detour to Fried Masa Cakes with Cheese (to answer the question,"what will happen when grated cheese meets hot pan?"--Gourmet 2000, reprinted from Anya van Bremzen's "Fiesta") I arrived at this full-flavored yet tender conclusion. - creamtea
Makes 11 or 12 medium (4-inch) pancakes
- 2 cups corn kernels from about 2 ears of fresh, uncooked corn (fresh preferred; if using frozen, allow to thaw slightly)
- 2 tablespoons mild, sweet onion, minced fine
- 1 small sweet long red pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced fine (about 1/4 heaping cup)
- 1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced fine (about 1 teaspoon, lightly packed)
- 1 scallion, minced fine, including some green (optional)
- 1/4 cup sharp, coarsely grated cheese such as Pecorino, lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons yellow stone-ground corn meal
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose white flour (or more, depending on moisture in corn kernels)
- 1 egg, separated plus one additional egg white
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- a drizzle each of olive and safflower oils
- Goat milk yogurt as an accompaniment if desired.
- Place corn kernels in bowl of food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not mushy. (For texture, you may opt to leave a portion of the kernels whole--about 1/4-1/2 cup--to be added later.).
- Remove corn from processor into a large bowl, and combine with onions, pepper, scallion if using, and cheese. If you kept some of the kernels whole, stir them in now. Stir in the cornmeal and flour and mix well. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk lightly, add the cream and combine with the corn and peppers. Stir in the ground pepper. Batter should be moist yet firm, with barely any pooling of liquid at the bottom, and should hold a rounded shape. If it is too liquid, add more flour until it just binds.
- Combine the egg whites in a medium-size bowl and set aside (see step 6).
- Over medium-high heat, begin to warm a 12-or 13-inch nonstick skillet.
- While skillet is heating, in a medium bowl beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but moist peaks form. Scrape the beaters and turn about 1/4 of the whites into the corn mixture. Mix to lighten the batter. Fold in the rest of the whites until combined. Batter should be soft, moist and fluffy.
- Test the skillet with a sprinkle of cold water. When it sizzles, add a good drizzle of the oils and allow to heat for a few more seconds.
- Using the tip of an oval cooking spoon, scoop out batter for each cake, and drop into hot oil: about 1/4 c batter for 4" ovals. For smaller cakes, scoop out about a tablespoon of batter. Fry cakes in batches (do not crowd pan as they are delicate and flipping them will be difficult if you do). Cook until brown and crispy on underside and just barely dry on top, about 4-6 minutes for the larger cakes. (Watch the pan and adjust heat as necessary to avoid burning). They will release fairly easily when the underside is done. Flip and fry second side--it will cook more quickly than the first side. Drain on layers of paper toweling. Add fresh oil as needed for each batch or two.
- Serve piping hot with goat's milk yogurt as an accompaniment if desired; but these are equally addictive plain and without distractions.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Dinner That Makes a Good Lunch
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe with Corn
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe with Scallions
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Spicy Recipe
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Road Trip Snack
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Pancakes, Sweet or Savory
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best One-Bite Party Snack
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Corn off the Cob