Pronto Pups & Tartar Sauce

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One year ago this week, we brought our adorable, naughty, incredibly cute, really stupid, brilliant and snuggly puppy home from Newcastle. It's been a wild ride of dog ownership but we've loved every minute (ok, ok: most minutes) of it. So in honour of keeping Holtzmann alive for one year despite her best efforts to the contrary, here's a recipe named for her. That's right: tartar sauce. Just kidding! The tartar sauce is to garnish the Pronto Pups.

Let's start with the obvious: a Pronto Pup is a Hush Puppy. And if you're an adult who has managed to avoid eating a Hush Puppy in your lifetime, might we trade places? I grew up convinced that I hated Hush Puppies, which is sensible when you consider the fact that I hated onions and a Hush Puppy is the world's best place for hiding onions you don't know about til you bite into one, but it's completely insensible when you think about the fact that I don't remember having actually tasted a Hush Puppy until one time in Kentucky when I ordered catfish at a cookout and had to eat one... as a teenager.

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 this is an overcrowded fryer. do not be like me.

this is an overcrowded fryer. do not be like me.

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If you're from the UK and still have no idea what I'm talking about, a Hush Puppy/Pronto Pup is a deep-fried ball of savoury batter, generally served with other fried things like fish or shrimp, and dipped in ketchup, tartar sauce or mayonnaise. Some are slightly sweet, some include chunks of onion in the batter, and the perfect puppies are just this side of moist on the inside with a crunchy golden exterior shell. In this version, the cornmeal/polenta really helps get the outside to crunch without affecting the inner texture, and as someone who spent most of her life unconvinced of the merits of Hush Puppies, these Pronto Pups might have me finally changing my mind.

Serve these alongside grilled or broiled fish, sauteed spinach and a glass of white wine for the perfect weeknight treat... and don't forget the tartar sauce!

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Note:

As listed below, this will make a very lightly sweetened but still savoury Pronto Pup, which is how we like them in the Recipe Box kitchen. If you prefer yours sweeter, ditch the onion powder (or, if you don't have a child's fear of onions, swap the onion powder for finely minced sweet onion).

the verdict:

4 spoons out of five. The lover of Hush Puppies in this household adored these Pronto Pups; the non-lover (me) thought they were really good.

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one year ago: mocha cake with caramel frosting
two years ago: Creative Casserole
three years ago (new!): Teriyaki Tuna Steaks

The recipe:

Pronto Pups

the directions:

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar and onion powder and stir together with a fork.
Lightly beat the egg, then add it to the dry ingredients.
Add the milk very gradually, beating it in with a fork JUST until batter comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl- batter should be very thick, almost like cookie dough (I used about a teaspoon less milk than listed here).
Heat a small pot of oil until very hot.
Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter into boiling oil and allow to fry until golden brown.
Do not overcrowd your fryer.
As soon as pronto pups have turned golden, remove them to a cooling rack topped with a double-thickness of paper towel to allow to drain.
Serve warm with tartar sauce (below), ketchup or mayonnaise alongside your favourite seafood.

the ingredients:

1 c (120g) flour
¼ c (40g) polenta (cornmeal if you're stateside)
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp onion powder
1 egg
¼ c (60ml) milk
Oil for deep frying (Enough to fill your pot to a depth of 3 inches)

The recipe:

Tartar Sauce

the directions:

Combine all ingredients and stir well.
For best flavour, mix ingredients 1 day before use.

the ingredients:

½ c (115g) mayonnaise
1 tsp onion, minced (NOT a red onion, even if you're in a pinch, which I learned the hard way when my first batch of tartar sauce came out pink)
½ tbsp capers, minced
½ tbsp green olives, minced
½ tbsp cornichon or dill pickle, minced
½ tbsp parsley, minced