I adore onion rings. I really do. When they are well made, they are one of my very favourite foods. Few things make me happier than a plate stacked high with crisp, golden rings. I'm always pleased to find a restaurant that offers them.
I lack the patience to separate onions into perfect rings and I dislike deep frying at any time, but there are times when I don't want to go to a restaurant. I've evolved a recipe for these times; cutting my onions into strands instead of rings, and putting aside my objections to deep frying for long enough make the crispy batter coating I'm craving.
I enjoy the tangy flavour buttermilk adds to deep fry batter, so I always use it when making crispy onions. Lately though, I’ve been looking for ways to use up the whey I have left over from making yogurt. I decided to try varying my usual batter recipe this time, replacing the buttermilk with an equal quantity of whey.
My whey based batter turned out very well. It had a nice crisp texture and its flavour was reminiscent of good sourdough bread; with a more distinct tang than buttermilk batter. I really liked it. If you like things that taste like sourdough, you’re going to love this dish too.
To make crispy fried onions, you’ll need:
- Whey or buttermilk (about 1 cup of whey for every 2 cups of sliced onion)
- Seasoning (hot sauce is good in this batter, but so are poultry seasoning, chopped chives or finely minced scallion, or even just freshly ground black pepper)
- Canola oil for frying
Cut your onions in half vertically and then slice them crosswise, very thinly, into half moon shapes. Break them apart into individual strands as you drop them into a mixing bowl.
Add your whey to the onions and stir it around so that it touches all of the onion pieces.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate the onions for at least an hour. The whey will draw some additional moisture from the onions while they rest.
Once the onions have rested for a time, add some cornstarch to the bowl a bit at a time, mixing until it dissolves into the liquid. (You’ll probably have to use your fingers to work it through the onions.) Continue adding and mixing until the batter is about the thickness of heavy cream and clings to the onion pieces. Stir in whatever seasonings you wish to add at this point.
Pour enough oil into a wide pan to make a depth of about 2 inches. Heat it to 360F.
While the oil is heating, place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. You'll be transferring the onions to this rack once they're cooked.
When the oil is heated, start adding onions to the pan. Work in small batches. The onions will want to clump together so you'll need to work them apart with your fingers as you drop them into the oil. You'll still have clumps, but they should be small clumps.
Fry the onions to golden brown, then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil. Take care to drain off as much excess oil as you can.
Transfer the drained, cooked onions to your prepared wire rack and sprinkle them with salt.
Put the cooked onions, still on their wire rack, in a 200F oven to stay warm while you cook the remainder.
Serve the onions as soon as they’re all cooked, while they're still piping hot and crispy.
If you have leftovers and want to reheat them, do so on a wire rack, in a rimmed baking pan, in the oven.