Esta's Kitchen: Beer Battered Onion Rings

Esta stocks up on her favorite ingredients.
Don Parkinson - Esta stocks up on her favorite ingredients.

I’m not sure when my love of onion rings began: I just know that it has always been. Perhaps The Jackanator ate them while my twin Rachel and I were in the womb. Maybe its hereditary and my great-great-great grandfather enjoyed them. Whatever the reason, I.Love.Them.

I like all kinds, all types, and all forms of onion rings. If I can substitute them for French fries, I will. If they are on the appetizer menu, I will get them. If you take them off my plate, I will hurt you.

When I was 15 years old we moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas. The move brought many new things to my life, but mostly it was my introduction to the culinary world of Southern BBQ, fried food and vegetables like collard greens, cooked with bacon grease and hot vinegar.

Side note: collard greens are a beautiful, beautiful thing, and unless you are from the south, I don’t want to hear about how you make good ones. Because you don’t.

When we first moved to Jonesboro, there used to be a BBQ restaurant called “Grizzly Adams."  To this day I don’t know who Mr. Adams is or why he was Grizzly, but he made some damn fine onion rings. The batter was so thick, it was like biting into a deep fried onion donut. 15 years later, I’m still searching for a ring that compares.

Living up to Grizzly Adams

So, you would think that with my deep love of these circular gems of crispy goodness, I would have tried to make them before. I mean, you all know how I can cook anything. Hellz, I added beer to chicken and rice soup! But, of all things, the recent Super Bowl inspired me to finally try my hand at making onion rings.

Beer Battered Onion Rings

  • 1 large onion (Spanish or Vidalia, and you will need more if you have more people)
  • Buttermilk
  • Hot sauce
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • Beer (at least 2 bottles)
  • Oil for frying (peanut is best)

Slice the onions into ½-inch slices, place in large bowl, and add enough buttermilk and beer to cover the slices. I recommend at least ½ cup of beer per onion. Add several dashes of hot sauce. Set aside and let marinate for at least 1 hour.

Mix the all-purpose flour with garlic powder and salt and pepper in shallow bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, slowly whisk the beer together with the self-rising flour. Add enough beer so that the batter is like a thick pancake batter. Set aside.

Heat oil in whatever apparatus you choose
(a large Dutch oven, a Fry Daddy, a deep electric skillet, or a deep frying pan will work) to 350 degrees.

The best way to tell if the oil is done: flick a little water into oil. If it spurts and bubbles, it’s ready. If it starts smoking, it’s too hot.

Dredge the marinated onions in the AP flour mixture, then in the beer batter. The onions can stay in the beer batter for a while, so you don’t need to rush this process.

From the beer batter, place the onion slices in the oil, one at a time. Fry for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the batter is brown and crispy.

Bend the onion ring to see if the batter is cooked all the way through. If the rings brown quickly but are still raw on the inside, your oil is too hot. Turn down and let it cool.

It’s had nothing to do with football, I assure you, but rather the fact that there was a turkey fryer on the premises. It’s a time I cleverly call, "What can EB find to deep fat fry but not have to do any of the hard clean up work?"

It’s something everyone should experience.

I kept good ol’ Grizzly’s onion rings in mind as I began to research what makes a good O ring. People had all kinds of ideas and advice about batter, especially. I took some of it to heart, but in the end did what I wanted to do. Which is why I’m awesome.

I suggest using a winter lager or stout in this recipe because when you deep-fry food, the dominant flavor is oil. I wouldn’t normally object to this, but when you write a column about cooking with beer, people expect to taste the star attraction. I solved this problem by marinating the onions in beer before battering them, and using a strong-tasting beer.

Here’s what I’m blaming society for this week

Frying onion rings, I soon discovered, is an art form of its own kind. In all of my research about batter, onions, and marinades, not one person mentioned frying the suckers. SOCIETY= FAIL.

In the first attempt, I ended up with what can only be called a sculpture of hard battered onions. It was rather beautiful in a way, shocking even in its raw sexuality. I called it the “Onion Claw."

It tasted good... just difficult to eat.

I suspect the style of frying depends on what type of batter you use. For example, my problem was that the rings kept melding together through the batter. It was like sex in hot oil. With onions. And no one wants to see that. If you do, then you may or may not be in the right place.

One of the things I am trying to accomplish with this column (besides showing how much alcohol adds to our overall happiness) is to educate my rapidly growing fan base about recipes that can be made by the average cook, in the average kitchen. This is why I always try to be honest about my failures (and successes) and why I include tips I learned the hard way.

I do this for you, my fans. No need to thank me, I’m a giver.

So here is my tip for frying onion rings at home: Don’t. Sneak into a restaurant and use a large commercial fryer.

Just kidding, people. Just kidding!

Tips for sexy onions

  • It doesn’t matter how deep your fryer is. What matters is the circumference of the thing. (Editor’s note: That’s what she said!) The kind of onion rings I made expand in oil, so you need to allow space between them. This will keep them from doing the nasty in the oil. Which is not as much fun as it sounds.

  • Don’t cook them in layers unless you want claw-like sculptures that your friends will refuse to eat. Sadly, this means a turkey fryer is not the best way to fry them.

  • Don’t touch the onion rings once until they are browned or you will scrape the batter off and just have fried onions. Ask me how I know this.

  • Only cook a few at a time. This makes it easier to control what is happening in the oil. If you are making them for a large crowd just tell them to lump it and be patient. Keep the rings warm in the oven at a low temp, uncovered, until you are ready to serve.

P.S. You will notice this recipe is missing some measurements. It’s called living dangerously, people. That’s how this gal rolls.

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