(Given that of the two of us, only Austin likes onion rings, this review is entirely from him.)
Ah, Onion Rings — a staple of anywhere that serves “American” food, typically in the lower price and quality bracket. Most certainly a comfort food, and absolutely not a good way to eat your veggies. So, this should be the sort of thing to be fairly simple to do at home, right?
I really wish it were so.
Onion Rings, as it turns out, are deadly difficult: having tried a few different recipes, any option is pretty labor intensive, and most of them have something wrong with them. I first tried oven-baked variants (Including the “Bloomin Onion” which I thought would turn out better in the oven) and they always ended up soggy masses of acrid and chewy disappointment. While many deep fried recipes can be replicated in the oven in a much more healthy way, it seemed that Onion Rings just had to be deep fried. Not pan-fried in a little oil — I tried that too — but really dunked in a massive cauldron of hot oil and allowed to boil fiercely until golden-brown and probably artery-clogging. I’d wanted to try this for a while, since onion rings are something of a favorite of mine, but the barrier of the deep frier stood in my way for quite some time.
Recently, though I made the Mozzarella Grilled Chicken Sandwiches — as was said then, “Experiment #1” was the basic form — the original sandwich was topped with onion rings among other things, and using up the thin chicken breast fillets gave me the kick I needed to actually try another Onion Ring recipe. This time, I’d do it right, deep frier and all.
These suckers are nothing if not labor intensive. To turn an onion into onion rings you have to first cut it into discs, then separate the rings, then flour each ring (one at a time is preferred), then batter each ring (good luck doing this better than one at a time) and let the lot of them drain at least a bit, then coat each and every ring in bread crumbs (once more, basically one at a time), and finally you have to fry them (Mercifully as much as four at a time, I found, maybe more if you do all the little center rings in a batch). Making a big heaping plate of onion rings is a big heap of work and in the end a big heap of dishes in the sink — horrifying!
But for a recipe that would be made once in a blue moon, is it worth it? Absolutely! These are the perfect onion rings, the sort you get at a good restaurant, or if not a good one because most good places would go grey in the face at the implication they serve onion rings, at least at the kind of place that can make your delicious comfort food dreams come true for a lot of grease and not a lot of dollars. To get them to a perfect dark-end-of-golden-brown crispness, the key was to wait until the bubbling around the ring slowed dramatically, which it would at around the two minute mark. The entire batch turned out great, as did the “Experiment #3” Mozzarella Grilled Chicken Sandwich — with lettuce, bacon, and onion rings adding the right amount of crunch to have, again, once in a blue moon.
I don’t know when, if ever, I’m going to take the opportunity to fry up some onion rings again — it’s a lot of mess, a lot of work, and really a lot of waste too for a product that just finally manages to match what I could get from fast food. But if I do, I know how I’m going to do it.