Classic American Recipes: Onion Rings

onion rings &  cheeseburgers topped with tomato-jalapeno salsa

onion rings cozying up to a couple cheeseburgers topped with tomato-jalapeno salsa

I really believe in and try to practice—honest I do—rule #39 from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual: ‘Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.’ You’ll eat foods like French fries, nachos, and ice cream a lot less often if you make them yourself. You’ll also save money and rekindle your taste for real food (that fast and processed foods destroys). Not convinced? Try these home-made onion rings and get back to me.

Peel and slice two large, any-color onions into 1/4-inch thick rounds, separate the rings and set aside. Pour enough olive oil (or oil/fat of your choice) into a large pan to cover the rings fully while they fry. Now for the batter.

As with chicken broth, mac ‘n cheese and guacamole, a batter recipe is a very personal thing to a cook. Some like their batter pasty thick. Some use beer, others water and/or milk. Some never unite the ingredients together but instead pass items through various ‘baths’—flour, egg, bread crumbs. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no single best recipe. So why worry about it? Experiment with batter. Start with one egg and a couple tablespoons of flour and whisk well. Add liquid of your choice, and go from there. You’ll soon hit on your batter. This is my husband Luca’s recipe for batter, or pastella in Italian:

1 egg
about 1/3 cup white flour
about 1/3 cup carbonated water
splash of milk
pinch of salt
1 ice cube

He whisks all the ingredients together, then drops an ice cube in the bowl at the end that he lets sit in the batter while he works. I’ve no idea why. But it’s a fabulous batter.

Heat the oil until a dollop of batter sizzles dramatically and begins to golden immediately when dropped in the pan. Using tongs, dip your onion rings into the batter and gently shake off the excess before placing in the oil. Fry for about four minutes on each side but keep on eye on them so they don’t burn. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined bowl and lightly sprinkle with salt. Pepper, too, if you like it.