On Eating and Loving Food

Tempura-like onion rings

These are so totally awesome you will not believe!
Wed, 05/30/2018 - 4:45pm

Do you order onion rings in restaurants? I don’t, unless I’ve seen some there, and I know they’re freshly made, and prepared and cooked right.

There have been too many times I’ve asked if they’re made in-house, been told “Oh, yes, of course!” and they appear on my plate, and I know the waitperson was either lying, or just not that knowledgeable about food.

Too often I’ve been disappointed, though not really that disappointed. I’m a skeptic by nature, and I know enough to not get too excited, hoping for perfect crunchy golden brown on-the-outside, and a sweet, whole slice (not some chopped version) of Vidalia onion on the inside.

And if they are obviously out of a freezer, after I’ve been told they’re made fresh right there in the kitchen, I feel justified to not return to that particular joint. Unless, of course, the joint serves an especially good manhattan. I just won’t order the onion rings.

So anyway, I started making my own onion rings, and I defy anyone to compare them to the best ones you’ve ever had in a restaurant, and not vote for mine. I’m not bragging. I used to make them when I worked in restaurant kitchens, and I know a little about deep-frying onion rings and seafood.

I use the same procedure I did in restaurant kitchens, with a little variation, because I’ve gotten a little older and a lot smarter. Oops. I mean a lot older and a little smarter :-)

Even if onion rings you get in restaurants are freshly made, they often have an extra thick coating, which some like, but I prefer them to have a lighter coating – similar to tempura. Have you ever had tempura? Thin, light crunchy golden brown tempura? Hello.

I once made veggie tempura at my friends, the Maryellenz, house in Bath. Of course they’re both great cooks so I was a little nervous (not really – standing up in front of people and talking makes me nervous, unless I’ve had a good strong manhattan – but cooking for people doesn’t. Everyone knows I have never claimed to be a chef, or even a great cook, but I am a pretty good one.)

Anyway, the tempura was fabulous. I used several different veggies, including fresh green beans, ’shrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, and of course, Vidalia onions. Tempura batter is made with just eggs, cornstarch, flour and ice cold water. Some recipes don’t call for the cornstarch, but I think it makes the coating crisper.

And lucky you – next week I’m going to give you a recipe for tempura. It’s easier than you might expect, and it’s wicked impressive to people you invite to share it with who don’t have a clue. Plus I will have to make some for photos. And then I’ll have to eat it. Bummer.

But now, I’m going to tell you how to make light, crunchy golden brown onion rings, similar to tempura.  Talk about a crowd pleaser!

Here’s the recipe that has evolved over the years of attempting to perfect it (and I did :-):

Get an inch or two of oil – I use canola – heating over medium-high heat, in a big pan. Slice Vidalia onions, not too thin, not too thick – you know – the perfect thickness for a perfect onion ring. Toss them around in some flour.

Beat a couple eggs and mix in a cup of milk. Throw the rings in there. In another bowl mix up a combo of half flour and half cornstarch – start with a half cup of each. (If you need more you know what to do. Make more.) Throw in a tsp. of salt.

Now take the rings coated with the egg mixture, one at a time (don’t roll your eyes – it’s not that bad), shake them off, and throw them into the flour mixture. Use a big bowl for the flour mixture so you can kind of stir six to 10 of them around at at time, with a fork.

Shake excess flour off and throw the rings into the oil, as many as will fit without overlapping, and turn as they start cooking. They’ll turn light golden brown in no time flat. This seems time-consuming, and it can be, but if you have a manhattan, or even just a glass of wine while you’re doing it, it will seem like a blast, and it will be so worth it you won’t mind the labor.

Or have a manhattan on the deck before tackling the o-rings.

Do I have to tell you to have a platter lined with paper towels to throw the finished golden-brown rings on? I sincerely hope not. If I do maybe you should just go to a restaurant and get some pre-frozen ones.

These are so totally awesome you will not believe! And the best part? With that combination of flour and cornstarch, for some reason I’m not aware of and don’t really care anyway, you can make a big pile of the onion rings, and when you eat them, the ones on the bottom will still be crunchy. I kid you not.

And if you eat a platter-full of these you might just as well have a piece of chocolate cream pie for dessert.

If you make these I’d love to hear how they come out, so email me at suzithayer@boothbayregister.com

Tempura next week. See ya then.