Homemade Onion Rings
Oh the humble onion. How often I have overlooked thee in my winter local food stores. You might ramp up the flavor in a soup or an omelet, nevertheless I just wasn’t thinking about what you might do as the star of the show. But as we enter the “leanest month” – March – for locavores, I gave you a piercing stare as you hung there in your little mesh bags from a peg in my dry cool dark basement where you hold up indefinitely without a peep of complaint. What can I do with you?
Caramelized onions or French onion soup would perhaps be more predictable fates for a large stash of onions like that leftover from my plentiful onion harvest in the garden last summer. And you may yet see both of those manifestations of onion goodness here this winter. But I had a craving and a curiosity to satisfy first.
I love onion rings with that crispy salty outside and that soft sweet onion on the inside. They seemed to show up a lot at lunch during the summers when I was a kid; mom needed a quick side for my dad when he came rushing in at unpredictable times from working in the field. My dad loves fried food. Can you blame him?
Unfortunately I don’t have the physique to get away with eating fried foods in any great quantity. It stood to reason that my love of onion rings would be well served if I took some of those winter-stored onions and experimented with a healthier and homemade take on this fast food favorite.
Besides burning the first batch, I declare these a solid success! By putting a cookie sheet coated with a little oil in the preheating oven, you get the same crispy coating of fried onion rings without the saturated oily side effect. I can’t take credit for that technique though: I saw Jamie Oliver (on the “telly”) use it once to cook up roasted potatoes faster. Works like a charm, just be sure to let the cookie sheet get good and hot first, and then flip the onion rings once during baking to get the other side golden as well.
So, if you had a good dozen or so large juicy onions still in storage, what would you do with them? Or, perhaps more importantly, what would you like to see ME do with them?
Homemade Onion Rings
A Straight from the Farm Original
3 T. canola oil
3 large white or yellow onions
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. all purpose flour
1 C. toasted wheat germ
1 C. bread crumbs
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spread the oil on a baking tray and set inside the preheating oven to get hot.
Cut the onions into a thick rings. Separate the rings of the onion with your fingers and set aside. In a large shallow dish, mix the egg, buttermilk, cayenne, salt and pepper until well combined. Add the flour and mix until all lumps are gone. In another large shallow bowl, combine the wheat germ, bread crumbs, marjoram, oregano , and basil.
Working in batches and using your hands, toss the onion rings in the batter first and then in the bread crumb mixture.* When you have all the rings coated, carefully remove the hot baking tray from the oven and immediately place the rings on it in a single layer. You will likely need to bake them in two batches unless you have a very large tray.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden but not brown, turning over once during baking. Remove from oven and place on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and serve immediately.
*You can stop at this point and freeze the coated rings on a cookie tray and then put them in a ziplock bag to use later. Just pop straight on a hot oiled baking pan (no need to thaw) and cook as directed above.