Wikimedia Commons/Yinan Chen
A platter of freshly cooked, golden onion rings will make your mouth water and won’t last long.
Yes, there really is a National Onion Ring Day (on June 22), and I must say I am very happy to celebrate in any way I can, even if it is just to stop at a restaurant and order some onion rings. My favorites are the ones dipped in batter rather than bread crumbs. I like them fixed both ways, but I prefer the batter-dipped ones. They seem more evenly coated and in my experience, less likely to be burned or have the coating fall off.
One thing I do not like about some of the onion rings I have ordered is when the actual onion inside has disintegrated into nothing but a thin, limp membrane. It’s like having a hollow onion ring. So, when I make them myself I am careful to slice off thick enough rings so they won’t disappear when fried or baked.
I am a big fan of onions no matter how they are presented, and I used to eat a lot of Funyuns, too (that onion ring shaped and flavored crunchy snack by Frito-Lay). I say used to, because I have stopped eating most chips and other convenience store packaged snacks. That helped me lose almost 15 pounds so far, so I hope I can keep that up. Not that homemade onion rings are much higher on the health scale, but I need a treat once in a while. And if you thought you saw me buying several boxes of Girl Scout cookies this past spring, that was someone else. Sure, it was.
On with the recipes now.
Foolproof onion rings
Adapted from a recipe from The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. Freezing the onions is said to break down their cell structure to make removal of the membrane easier, thus avoiding having the entire piece of onion pull out of the batter when you take a bite. And the mixture of flour and cornstarch mixed with vodka and beer limits gluten formation, making for a crisper crust.
2 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 quarts canola or peanut oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic
3/4 cup light-flavored beer, ice-cold
1/4 cup 80-proof
Separate the onion rounds into individual rings. Place in a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag and put them in the freezer until completely frozen, at least 1 hour (they can stay in the freezer for up to 1 month).
When ready to fry, remove the onion rings from the freezer bag, transfer to a bowl, and thaw under tepid running water. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels and dry the rings thoroughly. Carefully peel off the thin membrane from each ring and discard (the rings will be very floppy). Set aside.
Preheat the oil to 375 in a large wok or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat (or use a deep fryer if you have one). In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, paprika and garlic granules or powder. Combine the beer and vodka in a small bowl.
Slowly add the beer mixture to the flour mixture, whisking constantly until the batter has texture of thick paint (you may not need all of the beer). The batter should leave a trail if you drip it back into the bowl off the whisk. Do not overmix; a few small lumps are OK. Dip one onion ring in the batter, making sure it is well coated. Lift it out, letting the excess batter drip off, and add it to the hot oil by slowly lowering it in with your fingers or tongs until just one side is sticking out, then dropping it in. Repeat until half of the rings are in the oil. Fry, flipping the rings halfway through cooking, until they are deep golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the fried onion rings to a large bowl lined with paper towels and toss while sprinkling salt over them. The fried rings can be placed on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet and kept hot in a 200-degree oven while you fry the remaining rings. Serve the rings immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Smoked paprika onion rings
I didn’t think I was going to like these, as I hardly ever use smoked paprika, but I did enjoy them.
1 large sweet onion
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (I only used 1/2 teaspoon)
Salt, to taste
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
Plain dry bread crumbs, for coating
Canola oil, for frying
Rinse the onion and cut into rings about 1/4-inch thick. Carefully separate the rings; you can use the smallest ones for something else if you wish.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, smoked paprika, pepper and salt. Evenly coat each onion ring in the flour mixture and set aside
Mix the remaining flour mixture that you coated the onions with, with the egg and milk, and beat well until no lumps remain. Coat each onion ring in the above mixture and shake away the excess. Coat each ring in breadcrumbs.
Fry the onion rings in a deep fryer or pot of oil (about 375 degrees) until they are golden brown and crispy.
Crispy crumbs onion rings
2 medium to large yellow onions
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
Salt, to taste (about 10 dashes)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or to taste)
3 teaspoons Louisiana or Tabasco hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil (or more depending on the size of your skillet)
Peel and slice the onions into about 3/4-inch-wide slices. Separate the slices of onion into rings. In a large bowl with a flat bottom or casserole dish, pour the buttermilk. Add the onion rings to the buttermilk. Then add the hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix the onions into the buttermilk so that the onion rings are evenly coated with the mixture.
Add the whole wheat pastry flour and cayenne pepper to a medium bowl and stir together. Then add the panko bread crumbs to a similar size bowl. Mix up the onion rings again in the buttermilk mixture. Add the onion rings one at a time to the flour mixture bowl and coat them completely. Dip the floured onion rings (one at a time) back into the buttermilk mixture. Next, dip each one into the panko bread crumbs covering each ring completely with the crumbs.
Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add the oil. To see if the oil is hot enough, take a pinch of flour and sprinkle it in the skillet. If it starts to bubble then the oil should be ready. Add the breaded onion rings to the hot oil (about 4 or 5 at a time). When the bottom side of the onion ring turns a golden color, use tongs to turn the onion ring over.
When both sides of the onion rings turn a golden color, remove them from the oil to a paper towel while cooking the remaining rings. Salt the onion rings to taste. Serve immediately.
Onion rings in sour cream batter
1 large sweet or yellow onion, thickly sliced into 1/2-inch rings
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Canola oil, for frying
Heat oil at least 1 inch deep in a pot, skillet or deep fryer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk with the vinegar and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dip each ring in the sour cream mixture, then dredge with flour mixture. (Hint: use a fork to transfer from the wet bowl to the dry bowl so your hands are less likely to get all gummed up). Repeat by dipping in milk mixture a second time and dredging again in flour mixture. Place the finished onion rings on a plate until ready to fry.
When the oil is hot enough, place the double battered onion rings in the oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the outsides are crisp and a light golden-brown color. Remove to drain and cool a bit on paper towels. Makes 6 servings.