Lord of the Onion Rings

With my summer obligations resolved, I now have free time to do the things I am interested in doing before returning to work.  One of these was to do more experimental cooking.

About three weeks ago, I developed an urge to make my own onion rings.  I’ve never done it before, and I reasoned that it couldn’t be that hard – just onions, coating, and hot oil, right?  Yeah . . .

I knew of a very basic recipe (courtesy of a television show), that seemed very easy: 

After slicing your onions, dip them in buttermilk, and then coat them with corn meal.  Fry and salt to taste.

I tried this and have to admit that it was pretty good.  But it wasn’t a great recipe (in taste or execution), so I was left wanting to try something more.  The milk, for example, didn’t really coat the onion; when I dipped them into the corn meal, only portions of the onions remained breaded, and half of that fell off during the frying.  And while I have a deep fryer, I didn’t feel like hauling out of storage (I rarely fry anymore), so I used a standard frying pan with about a cup or so of canola oil.  So I’ll concede that maybe my failure at this had more to do with operator malfunction than a one with the recipe.

As I said, they were tasty.  I don’t normally salt foods unless the recipe requires it; I’m just not a “pro-salt” person.  (To show you how little I actually use salt, I had a box of salt in the kitchen that was 17 years old when I tossed it earlier THIS year.  I rarely salt French Fries, for goodness’ sake.)  Yet even I, with my untrained and unsalted palate, could tell that these rings needed something to give them a little “kick.”

On the spur of the moment, I decided to revisit my onion ring conundrum.  This time, instead of using buttermilk, I opted to go a different route.  I made a small (actually, a half-recipe) bowl of pancake batter.  I had some of the “just add water” mix on the shelf and reasoned that “batter is batter,” so it should work out.  So,

After cutting the onion, I dipped each ring into the bowl of batter and fried them.

The batter clung to the onion far better, and gave me the huge batter rings that I can get from a few neighborhood restaurants.  Out of curiosity, I coated a few of the battered rings with corn meal, and while it made for an interesting taste, it wasn’t that different.  Appearance-wise, they looked like salted pretzels, but the corn meal added very little.  I also tried to season some with a garlic powder I have, but I evidently didn’t use enough as what was there tended to fry off in the oil.

I know that someone out there is shaking their head and mumbling, “What’s the big deal? We did that when I was a kid!”  Well, we didn’t.  It was my first time and honestly, I was pretty surprised by the results.


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