Critical praise for Christy!

For "Murder Hooks a Mermaid:"
"Author Christy Fifield creates the kind of characters that stay with you for a long time. Fifield’s new Haunted Souvenir Shop mystery, Murder Hooks a Mermaid has it all: a sunny, relaxed setting, captivating locals, delicious food, and—of course—murder! Delightful amateur sleuth Glory Martine is back with her wisecracking parrot and charming group of friends in this thoroughly entertaining adventure. Don’t miss it."—Julie Hyzy, National Bestselling author of the Manor House Mysteries and the White House Chef Mystery series
"A whodunit with a dose of the supernatural, "Murder Hooks a Mermaid" is a worthy successor to the series opener and showcases Fifield's talents for plotting, characterization and humor." - Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Quirky and unique, a heroine for whom you can't help but root. The story sucks you in." - The Maine Suspect
"With a lovable cast of characters, good conversations and a great setting, this well-written book is a terrific read." -- Dru's Book Musings

For "Murder Buys a T-Shirt:"
A refreshing new sleuth! - Lynne Maxwell, Mystery Scene Magazine
"A fun book that will make the dreariest of days a little brighter! Socrates' great Book Alert" - Socrates' Cozy Cafe
"An entertaining and clever Florida whodunit" - Harriet Klausner
"Hilarious! A great murder mystery with well-written characters" - Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews
For the Georgiana Neverall Series:
"Christy Evans will find legions of fans with this new series" - Sheldon McArthur, Lincoln City News Guard
"Funny and entertaining -- a solid mystery filled with likable characters." - RT Book Reviews"
Cute cozy mystery debute -- wry humor -- adorable dogs" -Publisher's Weekly
"Will have you giggling out loud! Four Stars." - Kathy Fisher, The Romance Readers Connection"The Book is good! Keep them coming, Ms. Evans!" - Mystery Scene
"Evans delivers a fast-paced mystery with admirable finesse!" - Sharon Galligar Chance,
"Christy Evans has a hit on her hands" - Harriet Klausner,
"Christy Evans is aces. I'll be very suprised if Sink Trap isn't an instant hit with cozy readers!" -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Announcing New Ebooks from Christy!

Number One Fan here:  I'm pleased to announce two new ebooks from Christy (writing under her real name of Christina F. York), one short fiction, and a new romance novel!  I'm sure Christy will be along presently to talk about these herself, but I wanted to get the covers and links up for you to enjoy ASAP!  Be sure to download a free sample and try these great new books right away!

First up, Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, a new installment in her 99-cent short-fiction series!

Step-daughter Cynthia may sound like the perfect princess, but you've only heard her side of the story. Disobedient, ungrateful, tarted up in glass heels and out past curfew in a pumpkin coach, Cynthia has a lot to answer for, and now it's "Evil Step-mom's" turn to set the record straight! 

Buy it on Amazon

Buy it on Smashwords

Nook coming in the next day or two, with other major ebook outlets on the way!

Next a new novel of romance, fun, friendship and adventure, for the young-adult reader and the merely young-at-heart: Rodeo Royalty.

Tyler Forrester plans to be a rodeo princess, and get the attention of Brad Young, the hottest junior cowboy around. But when Tyler’s friend Amee decides to help her find some scholarship money, the plan gets out of control faster than a seven-second bull ride.

Thanks to Amee’s meddling and a large pile of scholarship money, Tyler is headed for Valenta, a tiny European country, to spend the month of August as a temporary princess, and her rodeo plans are headed for the last round-up.

Tyler is a long way from her friends, her family, and her horse. Sure, there’s a hot prince, but he can’t make up for everything she’s missing. Or can he? 

Buy It On Amazon

Buy It On Smashwords

Nook coming in the next day or two, with other major ebook outlets on the way!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Fall of a Hero

I've been missing from this blog for several months, and from much of the rest of my world.  I apoligize to my fans for disappearing, and I feel as though I owe you an explanation.  This may take more than one post, but I find myself wanting to talk about what happened over the last year.

You see, I lost my hero, the man I have looked up to and admired for more than 60 years.  My dad.  I want to talk about him, about who he was and what he meant to me.

Over the last couple years I have watched dementia slowly steal the man I knew.  It was heart-breaking to watch this vital, larger-than-life man reduced to a confused and debilitated man battling with his private demons.

In the end he slipped away in his sleep on the 17th of August.  It was both a tragedy and a blessing, and brought grief, relief, and guilt for feeling relieved, in equal measures.  I will always miss him, but the man I grew up with would not have chosen those last months of dependency and loss of control.

Dad wasn't a conventional hero.  He didn't fly planes, or charge into burning buildings, or chase bad guys.  But he was my hero.  There are many things I want to say about him, to tell you why he was important.

I thought I was ready.  I had the words in my head to tell you what I want you to know.  But I still can't.  Sometime soon, I hope.

In the meantime, I hold onto one thing: Just a few days before he died, I got a revised cover image for the first book in the new series (it's getting a couple tweaks, and I hope to have it to post later in the week). 

This is the first book under the Fifield name.  My dad's name. 

I was able to email a copy to my mother, and she took it to show Dad - the first time the name he passed down to me appeared on the cover of a book.

I like to think he approved.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cover Coming!

I've just seen a preview of the cover for MURDER BUYS A T-SHIRT, and I am very pleased with the results!  The art is wonderful, the composition is lovely, and there's a great quote from a writer I like and respect - a lot.

Did I mention that I am pleased?

There's a parrot on the cover - as well there should be - along with the new (old) name of Christy Fifield.  Technically that name is not exactly what my name was; I went by Christi Fifield when I was a child, but I didn't figure anyone would notice the difference.  Heck, it's been long enough since I used that name, no one would even notice, except my family!

Anyway, as soon as I have the okay I will be posting the cover - and the nice quote - here for everyone to see.  I also have a release date of March, 2012, so mark your calendars.

In the meantime, I do have a new short story available now on Kindle and coming soon to Nook, and through most of the other regular epublishing channels.  Here's the description for "Cheer Witches":

Some people think all cheerleaders are witches, which isn't really true. Except at Salem Township Public High School #4 - known to the student body as Witch High.

Regionals are coming, and Cassie wants to win. But not enough to cheat. Magic is strictly forbidden in competition, and by the coach. Still, a little magic seems to be creeping into their routines, and Cassie is worried. She prides herself on using her powers for good, and cheating isn't right.

If she can't find the hidden source of the magic before their next competition, they could be disqualified.

Or worse, in Cassie's mind, they could not be disqualified.

Then even if they win, they lose!

Find it on Amazon at the above link, or in all major ebook forms on Smashwords. Only 99 cents. Coming soon to Nook, Apple, Kobo, and all other major ebook outlets.  And while you're there, take a look at the other titles I have available.  There are two short stories FREE at Smashwords - Food Fight (also free for Kindle and Nook) and Songs of Lesser Voices (available for free on Nook) - and several others at only 99 cents.

I hope to be back here soon to post more recipes and cooking photos, and to share the new cover.  I'm excited to get your reactions to the cover - I'm already happy about it and I hope you'll like it, too!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

One Book Down, Two To Go!

Big sigh of relief from Christy Mystery - the first book in the Haunted Gift Shop series went off to the editor today!  Which means we start the whole "Road To The Bookstore" process again, with MURDER BUYS A T-SHIRT.  We've already been working on the cover copy - that is, the fabulous people at Berkley Prime Crime have been writing, and I've been commenting - and I hope to have it for you in the next few days.

In the meantime, the banana pudding post is written, but there's yet another delay.  The Official Taster, who is also the Official Photographer, informs me that we took over 130 pictures the day I made pudding.  And to post on the blog, we need to tidy them up a bit and make sure they are the right size.

Now I grant you, we'll likely use 5-10% of those pictures, so we don't have to fiddle with every one of them, but the problem is knowing which 5-10% to edit.  Needless to say, this has led to much dithering and discussion, most of which I refused to participate in because I was busy with - oh, I don't know - finishing a book?

But as of today the book is in the hands of my editor, and before I plunge into the next book I will get a couple more posts - with pictures - up here to tempt your taste buds, and I'll get the cover copy to tempt your reading appetite.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's In A Name?

Just when you think you have everything set up, someone comes along and knocks something down.  Sometimes that's a Bad Thing, sometimes it's a Good Thing.  And sometimes it's just a Thing.

For instance, this week at the day job has been insane.  I've been covering some vacation time in my department, which means I have spent several nights at work - but not in a row.  Oh no, that would be too easy!  Instead I've been mixing up night shifts and day shifts.  And that is kind of a Bad Thing.

On the other hand, I've been able to get back on schedule with visiting the gym, which means I am getting at least 30 minutes a day of cardio workout.  That is a Good Thing.

Then there's the change for Murder In a Shot Glass, which is just A Thing - though I think it actually deserves to be called a Good Thing.  The change is the title - as of this week we have officially re-titled the book MURDER BUYS A T-SHIRT.

The change was suggested by the publisher, and this is where the story gets a tad strange.  You see, when I first proposed the Haunted Gift Shop series, and gave the publisher a proposal for three books, I had a different story as the first book.  The title of that story was Murder Buys A T-Shirt.  After some discussion we decided that a different story was a better place to start, and we decided to start with the story I had titled Murder In A Shot Glass.

But when the book was presented at a meeting with some of the people who will make the magic happen - you know, give it a cover, and the cover copy, and the copy for the catalog, and all those things that will make droves of people actually buy the book - they weren't thrilled wtih the title.

No one has said exactly, but I can guess at least one of the reasons.  This is a cozy mystery, with all the cozy sensibilities.  Does Shot Glass say cozy?  Or does it say noir?  It sound more like noir to me, and while that's a genre I like, it isn't what I'm writing.  But T-Shirt?  That's a cozy title for sure.

So Murder Buys a T-Shirt is the new title of the first Christy Fifield mystery in the Haunted Gift Shop series.  And I'm happy with it.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more I prefer it to Murder in a Shot Glass.

There are other titles in the Haunted Gift Shop series - Murder In a Snow Globe, Murder Sends a Postcard, Murder Wants a Cracker - but I'm convinced that Murder in a Shot Glass isn't a cozy title.

But one of these days I will find the noir-ish story that goes with that title.  And then there will be a book called Murder in a Shot Glass.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cooking Up a New Series - Part Seven - Sweet Potato Casserole

You can tell it's Southern cooking by the parrot!
All of my Southern cooking is an experiment, and some of the results are better than others.  For instance, the problem with the hush puppies (see Part Two).  I had to thicken the batter, and I didn't make notes of my changes so I haven't been able to post a recipe yet.  On the other hand, the fried cornbread came out well and I was pleased with the results (in Part Six).

My first attempt at sweet potato casserole falls in the "less successful" category.  It was tasty, but it wasn't what my expert taste-tester expected and it needs some work.

But I'm not proud - I'm happy to share the tasty failures, too!

Mis en place for sweet potato casserole
The bowl at left is cornmeal for fried cornbread
There are a few tricks I've stolen from cooking shows over the years, and one is the concept of mis en place.  It's a French phrase that means (more or less) "everything in place."

You know how it is when you watch one of those shows, and they have little dishes of every ingredient already measured and ready in a tiny glass bowl?  They never waste camera time measuring, and it's also a great way to determine that you have every ingredient.

In fact as I was setting up for this recipe I discovered that I didn't have miniature marshmallows.  Fortunately the grocery store is only three blocks away.  On a cooking show there would be an able assistant, ready to run do the chef's bidding at any moment.  For me that was the amazing husband/photographer/Official Taster, who ran to the store for marshmallows as I started cooking.

Because the Official Taster prefers yams, that is what I actually used.  Most any variety of sweet potato or yam will work, but that may be part of what went wrong with mine.  I will need to experiment with either different tubers.  But once they were peeled and chopped I put them on to boil until tender.

While the yams simmered, I took a few minutes to clean up the kitchen.  I have discovered that this kind of cooking -  with new recipes and sometimes unfamiliar ingredients - can create a lot of havoc in my kitchen, and lead to many piles of dirty dishes.  Since I have an older house, built at the end of WWII, it doesn't have a dishwasher.  Someday, I have promised myself, we will remodel the kitchen.  Someday!

Bubble, bubble
Sweet potato trouble!

After a few minutes at a slow boil, the yams were fork-tender and ready to mash.  The recipe called for three cups of mashed sweet potato, which seemed like a lot for two people, so I used two small yams and cut the rest of the ingredients in half.  It was plenty, and we even had leftovers.

Once the yams were tender, I drained them in a colander and returned them to the pan to mash them.  I have an ancient hand masher, which was all I needed to smash the yams without completely destroying the texture.
An old-fashioned hand masher works just fine!

However, I think I may have over cooked the yams.  The consistency, as you will soon see, was thinner than I would have liked.  The Official Taster also said it should have been more like dense mashed potatoes than the dish I produced.  Thus the label of Tasty Failure.

But I digress...

 The yams were mashed, ready to be mixed, and here is where the mis en place shines!

Once the yams were mashed, I added the remaining ingredients,

Sugar ...


Butter ...

Milk ...

Eggs and vanilla,
and poured the resulting mash into a baking pan.
Tasty, but way too soupy!

This is when we realized the mixture wasn't as thick as we thought it should be.  There wasn't a lot I could do at this point, so I forged ahead with the topping

A chef's trick, right in my own kitchen
A second mis en place was ready with flour, brown sugar, melted butter, and chopped nuts.  In a concession to the Official Taster I omitted coconut.  Not pictured are the miniature marshmallows my dedicated assistant fetched from the store while the yams were simmering and I was cleaning up the mess from peeling and chopping.

I mixed the nuts, brown sugar and flour into the melted butter, and then added the miniature marshmallows.

I spread the topping over the mashed yams in the baking dish, and it was ready for the oven.

After baking, the casserole was a beautiful, bubbly brown on top, with puffs of golden melted marshmallows. It smelled great, and tasted fine, but it wasn't exactly ready for its close-up.  Here's hoping I can do a better job next time, and show you a finished product that will make your mouth water!

But for the record, here is a plate of the finished casserole.  Too soft to hold its shape, it probably belongs in a small bowl rather than on a plate - it was more like a pudding than a casserole, and it's quite sweet, too.

Stay tuned for more Southern cooking adventures soon!!  Maybe I'll get the pictures for that banana pudding ...

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups boiled and  mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Add sugar, milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla to mashed sweet potatoes.  Place in an oven-proof casserole and top with a mixture of

1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped nuts, pecans preferred, but walnuts also work
1 cup coconut (optional, according to the Official Taster)
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Bake at 350 degrees until brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cooking Up a New Series - Part Six - Fried Cornbread

After my first Southern meal of catfish and hush puppies (detailed in parts OneTwo, and Three), my next experiment was black-eyed peas with ham shanks (detailed in part Five) and fried cornbread.

This time I didn't need to use the deep fryer, just a frying pan and a much smaller amount of oil.  Since I had carefully strained and stored the shortening from the catfish and hush puppies I was able to re-use some of that shortening to fry the cornbread.

Using that oil also allowed me to test my theory about using oil that had been used for fish. It did, indeed, impart some great flavor.

Making fried cornbread, I discovered, is really a simple process.

First you assemble the dry ingredients, then add boiling water, stir, shape and fry.  It really is that easy!

While the process in quite simple, it also takes some patience, a word that keeps coming up again and again as I go through these recipes.  Giving the dry ingredients a few minutes to absorb the boiling water and to cool seems to develop a more easily-handled dough.

As the dough became pliable and cooled, I took a ball about the size of a golf ball, shaped it with my hands, and flattened it with my fingertips.  The result was a bunch of patties about the size of the palm of my hand, and a half-inch thick.  In order to avoid letting the oil sit on the heat, I shaped all the cornbread first - before I started frying.

I heated the oil in the pan, letting it come up to temperature before I started cooking.  I put a few pieces at a time into the oil.  As they turned golden on the bottom and started to brown around the edges, I flipped them to fry the other side.

In a couple minutes they were cooked through and a beautiful golden brown.

And here's the finished plate of fried cornbread, ready to sop up the juices off the black-eyed peas!

Fried Cornbread

1 1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water

Mix cornmeal and salt in a large bowl.  Stir well and pour boiling water over dry ingredients.  Stir to mix well. Dough will be slightly runny, but will thicken as it cools.  When dough is cool enough to handle, shape into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Wetting your hands will help to prevent sticking as you shape.  Flatten the balls with your fingers to about 1/2 inch.

Place the shaped pieces on plastic wrap or waxed paper until all pieces are shaped.

Heat about a half-inch of oil or shortening in a large frying pan.  When the oil is hot, place a few pieces of cornbread in the hot oil.  Cook until the bottom is golden and the edges begin to brown.  Turn and continue frying until the second side is also golden.

Drain on paper towels, and serve with your favorite Southern main dish!

Up next - Part Seven - Tasty Sweet Potato Failure

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A New Logo!

Since I have been doing the Southern cooking blog posts, we thought it might be cool to add a logo to the posts that will quickly identify them as a part of the MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS series.  And now we have a shiny new logo to add to the posts!

Here it is, in all its glory.

Look for the SHOT GLASS logo on the Southern cooking blog series, and on other posts about the Haunted Gift Shop series.  Sort of like the faucet logo for the Lady Plumber series.  And I'll be putting it on guest blog posts, so you can revel in your special secret knowledge of what it means.

I'll be looking forward to putting up more cooking posts.  These are experiments and they don't always work, but I will share the good, the bad, and the ugly for your entertainment and edification.

Coming soon (as soon as I get pictures) is a banana pudding discussion.  And then there are black-eyed peas with a ham shank, fried cornbread, and a yummy failure of a sweet potato casserole.

Stay tuned for some tasty adventures!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cooking Up a New Series - Part Five - Black-Eyed Peas

I know, I know.  I skipped Part Four.  Actually Part Four is written, but I don't have pictures yet, so it will have to wait for another photo op.  See, I made the pudding before I realized I wanted pictures for the blog, so (boo hoo!) I'll have to make another pudding and take lots of pictures.

In the meantime, we've added a logo for the Haunted Gift Shop mystery series.  Since Bluebeard the foul-mouthed parrot is a major character in the new series we've put his picture on a shot glass, to celebrate the first title in the series: MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS

Now, on to our next cooking experiment!

Because we live in the Northwest, and don't have access to fresh peas, I bought a bag of dried peas at the local market.  To prepare beans for cooking, I rinsed the peas and picked out a couple that looked  questionable.  Then I soaked the pound of dried peas in a bowl of water overnight.

There are shortcut methods of soaking, but I always feel like overnight is better.  I also changed the water in the morning, and left them to soak for a few more hours, until it was time to start cooking.

While I didn't have access to ham hocks, I did find ham shanks at the local market.  I could have just started the beans cooking with the ham shank, but I decided browning the ham shank would give me better flavor. 

  I started with a little olive oil so the ham wouldn't stick, though it quickly gave up lovely juices and started to brown nicely.  Once I had a little golden brown on the ham, and deglazed the pan with a little water, I added the initial seasoning - finely chopped onion (in deference to Mr. Christy) and several cloves of fresh garlic.

I sauteed the onions and garlic for a few minutes in the ham juices and olive oil, until they also got to be lovely golden brown.  By this time the house was starting to smell pretty good - a combination of aromatic vegetables and browning pork.

Now I was ready to add the beans.  I drained the water in which they had been soaking, and double-checked for any flawed beans.  After all, I wouldn't want to show you beans that were less than perfect!

I added water to the pan with the the ham shank and vegetables, then poured in the soaked and drained beans.

Once the ham and beans were in the pot, I added seasoning - celery seed, dried parsley (I would have used fresh if I had it - stay tuned for a discussion about herb gardens one of these days), black pepper, and salt.

Now it was time once again for patience.  The beans needed to simmer for a couple hours, until they were tender and ready to eat.  Along the way I tasted and adjusted seasoning as I went.  The ham shank was pre-cooked, but as the broth developed, minglling the ham juices with the vegetables and seasonings, the ham got even more tender.  As you can see in the second cooking picture the ham was practically falling off the bone.

When it reached that stage I took it out of the pot - carefully, because it was HOT - and removed the meat from the bone.  Aside from the heat it was an easy process since the ham was very, very tender.

I cut the ham into small pieces and added it back to the pot. 

At this point the peas were ready to serve, but Mr. Christy thought they were not as thick as he wanted.  After some consideration I added a little flour to thicken the broth.  The other choice, which I will try the next time, will be to start with less water, so the finished dish will be more like beans and less like soup.

But either way, it was mighty tasty!

And here you have the finished product, ready to go on a plate with fried cornbread - that's the next post! - and serve to your nearest and dearest!

Black-Eyed Peas and Ham Shank

1 cooked ham shank, about 1 pound
1 T. olive oil
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
8 cups water for soaking
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
8 cups water for cooking
1/2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
2 tsp salt, or to taste

Rinse beans and pick out any broken beans or stones.  Soak in water in large bowl over night, at least 8 hours.  Drain and discard soaking water.

Brown ham shank in olive oil.  Add onion and garlic, saute until vegetables begin to brown.  Carefully add water.  Add beans to pot, along with the rest of the seasoning.  Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  Take the ham shank out, remove the meant from the bone and cut into small pieces, then return to the pot.

Check beans for texture, and continue simmering, if necessary, until beans reach the desired level of doneness.

Serve with fried cornbread. (Stay tuned for our next post.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooking Up a New Series - Part Three - Fried Catfish

Research for MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS continued with fried catfish (see Part One for the beginning of this thread,  and Part Two for my adventure with hush puppies).  Now, I am a West Coast girl and my favorite fish are probably salmon, trout and tuna, but my husband's taste buds were formed in Alabama, and he remains a loyal catfish fan.

Fortunately, his mother gave me her catfish recipe.  I had my fryer (already hot from cooking hush puppies) and I had the catfish, which had finally thawed completely, thanks to putting the zipper bag from the grocery store in a bowl of cold water.  This is a small town, far from catfish country, so we had to settle for frozen fillets on short notice.

I cut up the fish, salted it, and left it to soak in buttermilk while I assembled the coating.  The recipe said to soak it in a shallow pan, but since it came in a zipper bag I used that.  It seemed to work fine.  All I did was sprinkle the fish with salt, put it back in its bag, and pour the buttermilk in.  I made sure the fish was covered by the buttermilk, squeezed out as much air as I could, and set it back in the bowl so it wouldn't accidentally get bumped, dropped, or otherwise disturbed.

The instructions I had said to fry the fish first, and I suspect some flavors would transfer to the hush puppies as they're cooking.  But I had to wait for the fish to thaw, so I did hush puppies first.  Next time I will allow thawing time - if I can't get fresh, or at least thawed, catfish - and do the fish first.  And yes, there will undoubtedly be a next time, if only to make my husband happy!

Mixing the coating was easy, since I had already made self-rising cornmeal for the hush puppies, and I had been able to buy self-rising flour.

I put the dry ingredients in a large, shallow bowl to give me lots of room to work, and started dredging the soaked fish pieces.

One thing that surprised me was how much the buttermilk clung to the fish when I took it out of the soak.  I guess I'm used to regular milk, which doesn't cling as much.
It did make it easy to coat the fish pieces, however, and they retained their layer of cornmeal nicely.

With the oil at the proper temperature, and the fish soaked and coated with cornmeal, it was time to start frying.  While my recipe called for 370 degree oil, the fryer recommended 340 for fresh fish, and I followed the manufacturer's recommendations.  It only took three or four minutes for the fish to develop a beautiful light gold crust, and float to the top of the pan.  As with the hush puppies, I could only do a few pieces at a time.  But with the timer running to enforce patience, and a stack of dishes to clean up as a distraction, I managed to wait as each piece turned golden and tempting.

Finally, we reached the rewarding end of the experiment: Tasting!  OK, I admit it, we'd been sampling hush puppies as I worked, and had decided on the more-onion option as the preferred version.  Steve, to his credit, had been patient and helpful, and took the pictures that accompany these posts.  He had even managed not to eat all the hush puppies while he waited for the fish.  (Though, in truth, there were so many hush puppies we actually had leftovers - which he ate the next day with the last couple pieces of fish.  Imagine, it was good enough to eat as leftovers!!)

Here's the finished product, in all its glory.  And the recipe for the fish is below the picture.

Next up, banana pudding.  After all, you can't have a good Southern meal without a sweet finish!!

Fried catfish and hush puppies - can't get much more Southern than this!

Fried Catfish

2 1/2 - 3 pounds of catfish fillets
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 cup self-rising corn flour
lemon quarters (optional)

Place fish in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt.  Pour buttermilk over fish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Combine cornmeal and flour.  Remove fish from buttermilk.  Dredge fish in cornmeal mixture.  Carefully drop fish in deep fat heated to 370 degrees.  Fry until fish float the the top and are golden brown.  Drain well and serve with lemon quarters.  8 servings.

(Note:  I only used 1 pound of fish, since I was feeding two people, and we had a little bit left over.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cooking Up A New Series - Part Two - Hush Puppies

Actually cooking some of the recipes for MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS was one way of making sure I understood the action in the cooking scenes.  Once I was set up with the proper ingredients - or reasonable substitutes - I was ready to start cooking.

The banana pudding was already made and we'd actually had some last night.  It's even better the second day, when the vanilla wafers have softened and the flavors have blended from sitting in the refrigerator overnight.

I prepped the catfish, salted it, and set it to soak in a buttermilk bath while I worked on the hush puppies.

First I needed self-rising cornmeal, one of the ingredients I didn't actually find in my shopping expedition.  Self-rising simply means the cornmeal already contains a leavening agent, in this case salt and baking powder.  According to the information I found online, all I had to do for each cup of cornmeal was replace 1 tablespoon of cornmeal with a tablespoon of baking powder and add a half-teaspoon of salt.  (Thank you,!)

I mixed the cornmeal and self-rising flour, sugar and garlic powder and added the onion.  My husband was leery of too much onion, and I dialed back the amount the recipe called for.  Then I added eggs and buttermilk, and I had hush puppy batter.  It looked thin, and I had my doubts, but I dropped a spoonful in the hot oil.

Now THAT looks right!
I was right, it was way too thin.  I had little crumbles of cornmeal batter, not a beautiful hush puppy.  At that point I double-checked the recipe, verified I had used the proper amount of each ingredient, and decided I needed to fix the mixture.  I added some more cornmeal and baking powder, until I got a batter that had the consistency I expected, and tried again.

This time things went much better.  The dough formed little balls in the hot oil instead of falling apart like cardboard in a heavy rain.  The fryer would only hold 4 or 5 at a time, but I waited patiently as each batch made its way from gooey dough balls to golden brown globes of corn-y goodness.

My husband taste-tested one of the first ones and pronounced it edible, much to my relief.  In fact, after a couple tastes, he said it could stand a little more onion.  Since I like onions I quickly added a couple heaping spoonfuls of minced onion and stirred it into the remaining dough.

Patience is not one of my strong points, but these were well worth the wait.  As you can see, they tumbled out of the fry basket onto the paper-towel-lined plate all golden brown and crunchy.

It took quite a while to cook up all the dough I'd made, but in the end I was rewarded with a baking pan full of lovely hush puppies.

Since I had a problem with the consistency of the original recipe I am not going to post it here - at least not until I have a version that works properly.  But in the meantime, here's a link to a recipe for hush puppies, similar to what I made.  There's also a link to a Paul Prudhomme recipe that I want to try.

In the meantime, here's a photo of the final result.  I think they came out looking good, and they tasted great in spite of the experimental nature of the recipe.

But that catfish was still soaking in buttermilk, and my work was far from over...

(To be continued...)