Tag Archives: fried

FEELIN’ KINDA SUNDAY: ONION RINGS

My mother, she’s a very wise woman.  When I was still rather young, she impressed on me the importance of my someday finding a partner who loved onions (and garlic) as much as I did.  “Otherwise, they won’t want to kiss you.”*

raw red onion

You see, I love onions.  I love them raw, I love them sautéed, I love them caramelized, baked, roasted, fried, pickled…well, you get the picture.  In all of their pungent, tear-inducing, breath-polluting glory, onions hold a prominent place in my culinary heart.

Growing up in an Indian household, as I did, onions (or piaj) were a regular feature on the table, raw and sliced thinly as an accompaniment to rice, daal (lentils), dahi (yogurt), and kheera (cucumber).  I learned to love the wet bite of onion as a foil for spicy, complex dishes, a way to slice through grease and access the tastebuds.

Quickly, I started eating my piaj with a lot of other, non-Indian things: pizza, hamburgers, turkey sandwiches, grilled cheese.  I know.  Some of you are out there gagging (like blog photographer Sonya, who is no fan of the raw onion), but hopefully even the biggest onion-skeptic can appreciate these:

fried onion rings
Behold the onion ring, a thing of beauty!  It comes in many variations (shoe-string, tempura-battered, jumbo-sized, etc.) but like most fried stuff, even a bad onion ring is a tempting one.

I’ve been an onion ring connoisseur for a long time, often preferring them (gasp!) to French fries when eating out, but had never tried to make them on my own until a few months ago.  Needless to say, in a household where I am lucky to have met & settled down with a fellow-onion-lover*, they were a hit.

Jill proclaimed them the best onion rings she’d ever eaten.  And girlfriend’s from Louisiana, so she knows her fried foods.  These are, I admit, a little bit labor-intensive.  But hot damn!, they are worth it.

ONION RINGS

These rings, as you can see, do not sport a heavy jacket of batter.  Rather, they’re lightly coated and extremely crisp.  I use a three-layer breading: flour first, then buttermilk, then cornmeal/breadcrumbs.  The secret is using one hand for the buttermilk step and the other hand for the last step.  If you don’t, things will become gummy realllll fast.  Be sure to have everything set up before you begin!

ingredients:

1-2 red onions (more if you’re feeling extra-ambitious)
flour
buttermilk or regular milk
yellow cornmeal
Panko breadcrumbs (look for them in Asian/Japanese aisle)
Tony’s or another all-purpose seasoning
Salt & pepper

A fair amount of Canola or peanut oil

Pour oil into a deep, heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 2-3 inches up the sides.  Heat on medium high while prepping the onions.

Peel the onions and cut off the ends, discarding.  Slice carefully into thin (¼-inch) rounds.  Separate out into individual rings, then place in a large Ziploc bag.

Dump between ½ – 1 cup of flour in the bag, depending on your quantity of rings.  Season lightly with salt & pepper.

You’ll need two wide and shallow bowls.  In one, pour in the (butter)milk.  In another, mix equal amounts of cornmeal and breadcrumbs.  Add 1 tsp. of Tony’s seasoning and stir to distribute evenly.

Now, for a trick: drizzle a small amount of buttermilk into the cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture, then rake through it all with a fork.  This will create small clumps which, when fried, will equal extra-crunchy goodness.

Part One: seal the Ziploc bag with the onions and flour inside, then shake the heck out of it, coating all of the rings.

Part Two: Transfer between 4-5 rings (depending upon the size of your bowls) to the buttermilk mixture.  Muddle them around with your LEFT HAND to get them wet.

Part Three: Transfer the same rings into the cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture.  Press down with your RIGHT hand to coat one side, tossing some of the mixture up and around to all sides.  Don’t worry if the rings aren’t totally coated.

Part Four: Fry away!  Your oil should be hot and shimmery at this point, not smoking.  (Remove from the burner to cool if it is.)  Test your oil with a single ring—the oil should immediately bubble around it.

Add a small handful of rings when the oil is ready, keeping an eye on the heat.  If the onions brown too quickly, turn the heat down.  After a few batches, though, you may very well need to turn the heat up to compensate for loss of heat.

Fry the onion rings in batches, approximately 2 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.  They’re excellent plain, but also go nicely with ketchup, Sriacha, aioli, ranch, etc.

Share/Save/Bookmark

FEELIN’ KINDA SUNDAY: A FOOTBALL-INSPIRED SERIES

Stephanie had an African-American father and a Puerto-Rican mother, and taught me how to make tostones, twice-fried, salty plantains. By luck of the subletting draw, I was her roommate for six weeks one summer in D.C., and I still remember her frying up a storm in our tiny Columbia Heights kitchen.  I stood with Jill, who was visiting for July fourth, over a paper-towel lined plate, waiting eagerly for the next finished batch and crowding our good-natured cook.

plantains frying again

Plantains had never been presented to me this way before, with a crust of toothy resistance on the outside and smooth goodness on the inside.  Though I lost touch with Stephanie soon after my sublet was up, I still make tostones the way I learned from her—frying once, then smashing each slice inside a Ziploc bag with the back of a water glass before returning it to the hot oil a second time.  A generous sprinkling of salt, and there is arguably no better accompaniment for a cold beer on a hot day.

Is anything more universally satisfying than fried food?  Is there a single human culture that has yet to discover the joys of dropping, well, just about anything into a pot of scalding-hot oil?  The French, of course, have given us their pommes frites, our beloved fries.  Japan is the home of everything tempura-battered, and samosas are now ubiquitous at Indian restaurants.  Italians perfected the art of frying baby artichokes and succulent rings of calamari, and Southern fried chicken is a near-universal craving.  As my mother in one of her cruder moments put it, you could probably fry shit and it would taste good.

lone plantain

I must make a confession.  I’ve become one of *those* people.  Those people who structure their entire fall around a televised game schedule, who politely decline invitations that conflict with home games, who scream and yell for a bunch of guys running around on a well-tended field of turf.  I’ve crossed over to the dark side now.  I’m officially a football fan.

My father did his best to cultivate my appreciation for the sport when I was younger, so I at least had a basic sense for how to watch the game.  But football never “clicked” with me until last year. Jill and Sonya, who have long been avid fans of the game, played fantasy football for the first time.  And when I say played, I mean became obsessed with.  While their team, the Junky Cowboys (not a comment on the state of Dallas’ team, rather an inside joke resulting from confusion over the band name, Cowboy Junkies) didn’t win the league championship (still a sore subject), fantasy football became the vehicle through which I learned to love football.

It’s a famous joke that football is the most widely-practiced religion down here in Texas—I think that’s probably true.  We have our rituals, our superstitions, our weekly gatherings, a shared sense of purpose, and our foods.  On Sunday around noon, while Jill and Sonya are obsessing over stats and lineups, I’m usually messing around in the kitchen, whipping up something to snack on over the course of the afternoon.  All of that screaming at the TV works up an appetite, you know.

So the Feelin’ Kinda Sunday Series will feature various football snacks, from the savory to the sweet, that have been met with success in my NFL-happy household.  Every Friday from now until the Super Bowl, I’ll share recipes that will translate easily to the weekend.  Even if your house is not a football house, I think you’ll be able to find a place for these goodies.  As always, we’ll feature a random-but-seasonally-appropriate smattering of posts on Tuesdays–coming up next week, Part II of Anders Wine Tasting Basics & some really, really good cookies.

In the meantime, I’m curious, Blue Jean Gourmet readers, are you into football?  And what’s your favorite thing to eat fried?

TOSTONES (twice-fried, salty plantains)

These are Sonya’s absolute favorites; I try to make them regularly so as to keep bribing her into taking gorgeous pictures for me!  While a bit time-consuming to make, tostones are totally worth it.  If you are not using to frying things at home, don’t be intimidated–these don’t require all that much oil, and are pretty forgiving.  While they’re lovely plain, we also L-O-V-E them dipped in guacamole.

Plantains are part of the banana family, but contain much more starch, like a potato.  If the idea of a fried banana wigs you out, don’t worry, I feel you.  These taste far milder and fry up beautifully–a perfect crunch on the outside, with a creamy give on the inside.  Look for plantains that are ripe (yellow with a few brown spots) but still firm.

ingredients: plantains & guac

2-3 plantains

canola or a similarly-flavorless vegetable oil

salt

To peel the plantains, slice off both ends with a sharp knife.  Then run your knife down the length of each plantain (don’t cut too deep!), front and back.  Remove the peel.  Cut each plantain into thick slices, about ½ inch thick.  Genly press the slices between paper towels  to remove excess moisture.

Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with a shallow (¼ inch) pool of oil.  Heat on medium-high until the oil is shimmering–test it with a plantain–if the oil immediately bubbles around the slice, it’s ready.  You may need to adjust the temperature of the oil as you go, if your plantains are taking too long or, conversely, getting too brown.

Fry the plantains in batches until they are light brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove to a paper-towel lined plate while finishing.  Turn the heat down on the oil while you smash the plantains.  To smash, simply place each plantain (you can do a few at a time) inside a Ziploc bag and smush with the bottom of a heavy glass.

Once all of the plantains have been smashed, re-heat your oil for a second frying.  Because the second round of plantains will be thinner, I recommend you heat your oil a bit less–say, if your stove was at a “7” the first time around, turn it down to a “5.”

Fry the plantains, once again in batches, until golden brown.  Serve hot, sprinkled with coarse salt.

Share/Save/Bookmark