How many of you read the title and immediately thought of buying a bag of frozen onion rings to heat in the oven, or worse, running out to Burger King to get an order of whatever it is that they call onion rings? Is it because the thought of making homemade onion rings dredges up memories of tear-stained cheeks and fauceting noses, batter-covered stove tops, oil-soaked, limp rings of unevenly cut onion that pull out of the batter sleeve, burning your lip and sullying your chin? Was your job, when you helped make these “fried rings of misery,” to clean up the mess afterward? It’s no wonder that so many good cooks turn to the convenience food aisle when it comes to these delicious sides. But it need not be so. Let’s tackle the cons to making good, easy and fast onion rings one at a time.
First, the onion. Some 30 or 40 years ago, when we were introduced to homemade onion rings, the fresh onion of choice, at least in the rural Midwest, was a white onion, or Heaven forbid, a yellow Spanish onion. Neither of these are a good choice for onion rings. They have thin rings which barely hold their shape raw, much less once they’ve been cooked. Sweet onions are where it’s at. Vidalias are the first choice, but they have a short harvest season. Luckily for us, Mayan Sweets are just as delicious and can be found pretty much year-round. Choosing smaller sweet onions gives you the best size for onion rings. We want to be able to eat these bad boys in a bite or two.
Second, the batter. It’s time for tempura-style battered onion rings to go the way of the Dodo bird. It’s messy, holds a ton of oil if not cooked properly, and quickly becomes soggy, especially if the onion rings sit for any amount of time. Instead, we’ll use a seasoned flour and cornstarch batter that does little more than serve as the tasty glue that holds the panko bread crumbs onto the onion rings. Panko bread crumbs remain crunchy under pretty much any cooking circumstances. Even after sitting out overnight, the rings are still crunchy.
Lastly, the dipping sauce. Gone are the days of suffocating soggy, tasteless onion rings in a puddle of ketchup. Instead, we’ll turn to a copy-cat recipe of the onion ring sauce found in several restaurant chains. Made with a base of sour cream and mayo, a generous dollop of horseradish and a few seasonings, this onion ring sauce will do these crisp circles justice.
These appetizers will take about 30 minutes from start to finish, so let’s not waste any more time dilly-dallying, shall we.
Onion Rings with Dipping Sauce
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 T. horseradish
- 3-4 T. ketchup
- ½ t. paprika
- 1 t. seasoning salt
- ¼ t. cayenne powder
Thoroughly mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.
- 2-4 medium sweet onions
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1½ t. seasoning salt
- ½ t. paprika
- 2 T. potato flakes
- 1-1½ cups club soda
- Panko bread crumbs
Cut the onions into ¾-inch slices. Discard the inside couple of rings along with any outside rings that have thin spots. If the raw onion cannot hold its shape, the cooked onion won’t either. Separate the rings.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except for the Panko bread crumbs. Add the club soda and thoroughly mix the batter. The potato flakes take a few minutes to absorb the liquid, so the batter might seem runny at first. After a few minutes, if the batter is too thick, add a bit more club soda.
Pour the bread crumbs in a separate bowl. One at a time, coat the onion rings in the batter, and then coat those with the bread crumbs. Place the uncooked rings on a large platter. They can be stacked, uncooked, without sticking together.
Heat 1½ inches of a mild vegetable oil, such as canola oil, in a large pan at least 3 inches high to 350°F. A heavy bottomed pan will allow you to control the temperature better. When the oil comes to temp, fry the rings in batches for 3-4 minutes until the coating is nicely browned. Using a chop stick or heavy skewer, remove the rings to a paper towel covered dish. Salting these onion rings is unnecessary.
Serve immediately with the prepared sauce.