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.