You see, I’ve had this hankering for some hot, crispy onion rings for quite some time now, and I think it’s about time I do something about it. It’s been far too long since I’ve picked up a glistening, freshly-fried little onion ring and took that first break-through-the-center bite; that bite that exposes a soft, sweet onion-y middle. No more fantasizing, no more dreaming; no more putting off the inevitable comforting goodness that freshly prepared onion rings can provide. I’m through with thinking that at some point soon, sometime down the line, I’ll get myself an order of those salty, black pepper-flecked, gorgeous little golden-brown rings of bliss at some joint that serves classic Americana; that soon enough, in the near future, I’ll stop over at some hole-in-the-wall diner-type place, and get some of the best tasting, beer-battered ring-y thingies I’ve ever treated myself to. No, no more waiting for that time to show itself, no more putting off my reunion with one of my favorites, the crispy-fried onion. I’ve got to take matters into my own hands if I want to be able to take a crunchy bite out of a golden-oldie, and take one now. And with all this talk of one of my favorite appetizers, things may have just escalated into an emergency snacking situation, so I’d best get to slicing. Bring on the tears, onions, bring on the tears!
Finding that love for things of an “onion-y” nature is one of those funny little odd joys of adulthood for not only myself, but my husband, too. Certainly, there are plenty of youngsters out there that love onions; but both my husband and I weren’t the biggest fans of them as kids, which is pretty much how our son feels about them at the moment. Back then, onions were on that “pick-‘em-off-my-food” list; but now, the more onions the better, in all of their wonderful, various forms: raw, caramelized or, especially, fried. We love ‘em! And as crispy-fried is pretty much the only way our son will fully enjoy them at this point, too, it’s that much more of a reason for me to slice ‘n fry. When sweet onions get to lounge around marinating in a buttermilk bath for a while, then get shaken up a bit in a highly seasoned flour/cornmeal combo, then drenched in a deeply aromatic beer batter and finally get gently plunked into hot, sputtering oil, amazing things happen. They become slightly sweet on the inside, and light and doubly crunchy on the outside — the perfect balance of flavor and texture, and pure comfort-food joy. Now add to them a spicy and smoky, “kicked up” tangy sauce to dip ‘em in, and it’s pure finger-lickin’, saucy-mouthed goodness. Simply irresistible and worth every tear shed during the slicing process, at least in my book of food love, anyway.
So, how about you? Do you have a hankering for those golden, crispy, seasoned little rings of onion-y goodness, yet? Have I been able to entice you into joining me in slicing up some deliciously sweet, Maui onions, double coating ‘em, dropping them into a hot, bubbly oil and producing an appetizer wholly worthy of sharing, or keeping all to yourself? Well, I’ll just take those little tears rolling down your cheeks as tears of agreement and joy…either that, or you’ve gotten a head start over me with your slicing! Darn!
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Double Crunch, Beer-Battered Sweet Maui Onion Rings with a Spicy & Smoky, “Kicked-Up Ketchup” Dipping Sauce
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(Serves about 2-4)
2 medium (or 1 extra large) Maui onions, peeled of outer layer and sliced into ½” thick rings
• Buttermilk to cover (about 3 cups)
• Vegetable oil for frying
2 cups flour, divided use
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
10 fl oz beer (lager type, or amber colored)
• Spicy & Smoky, “Kicked Up Ketchup” Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
-Add the sliced onions into a large bowl, and pour the buttermilk over them just to cover; allow the rings to marinate in the buttermilk for about 20 minutes.
-While the rings marinate in the buttermilk, place a medium-large pot on the stove, and add enough vegetable oil to come about half-way up the sides of the pot (about 5-6 cups), and slowly bring the temperature of the oil up to 350° while you prepare the rest of the steps.
-Prepare your flour dredge by adding 1 cup of the flour, along with the cornmeal, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper into a large Ziplock bag; once the rings have marinated, thoroughly drain them from the buttermilk allowing any excess to drip off, and add them into the Ziplock bag (work in a couple of batches if you need to) and toss very well to coat them thoroughly; remove the rings from the flour dredge and place them in a single layer onto a wire rack or baking sheet to hold for a moment.
-To prepare your beer batter, add the remaining 1 cup of flour to medium-size bowl, and slowly add the beer into it, whisking gently until the batter is smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter; to fry the rings, dip each ring into the beer batter allowing any excess to drip off, and carefully place into the hot oil; repeat with another few rings (you will work in batches), and allow the rings to fry for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown; remove the fried rings from the oil and drain them on paper towels, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them while still hot; repeat the process with the remaining rings. (You can keep the rings very hot by placing the finished ones on a baking sheet and into a warm, 200° oven while you work on the batches, if you desire.)
-Serve the rings alongside the Spicy & Smoky, “Kicked Up Ketchup” Dipping Sauce while hot.
Spicy & Smoky, “Kicked Up Ketchup” Dipping Sauce ingredients:
½ cup ketchup
1 garlic clove, pressed through garlic press
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2-3 drops liquid smoke seasoning
3-4 dashes (or more) tabasco sauce
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
• Pinch salt
-In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well blended; serve immediately, or cover with plastic and chill for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld together for extra zip.