When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, my grandmother used to take me to the farmers market in Miracle Mile. After the market, we would walk over to Bob’s Big Boy and order a serving of fried onion rings. We probably ordered hamburgers too, but all I remember to this day was how much I loved those onion rings. As far as I knew at age five or six, Bob’s was the only place on the planet to get them.
I still love onion rings, but can’t eat so many of those heavily battered, deep fried ones. This recipe, adapted from one by Ina Garten in Oprah Magazine makes a lighter onion ring than I remember from Bob’s, but still crunchy and delicious.
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick ringed slices, rings separated (See How to Slice an Onion)
- 2 cups buttermilk, or 1 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1 cup milk
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornmeal OR 1 cup prepared cornbread flour plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 or 3 cups of canola oil, or other high smoke-point oil such as rice bran oil or peanut oil
Equipment needed: a 5-quart heavy-bottomed dutch oven, tongs, candy thermometer or instant read thermometer, paper towels, cookie sheets
1 Coat the onion rings in seasoned buttermilk: In a large bowl, stir together the buttermilk (or yogurt and milk) with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
Stir the onions into the buttermilk mixture and make sure every ring is completely coated in buttermilk. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.
2 Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper in separate bowl: In a separate bowl (large enough to dredge the onion rings) whisk together the flour and cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and set aside.
3 Heat oil in thick-bottomed pot: Add 2 to 3 cups of oil to a large (5 to 6-quart), thick-bottomed pot. (Make sure that the pot is absolutely dry on the inside before adding the oil or any residual water will splatter as the oil heats.) Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot by 3/4 to 1 inch.
Heat the oil to 350°F. Use a good candy thermometer or instant thermometer (such as a Thermapen) to measure the heat of the oil. You may need to tilt the pan in order to cover the thermometer's sensor completely and get an accurate reading.
Be very careful whenever handling hot oil. No running kids in the kitchen. No distractions. Do not answer the phone if it rings. Pay attention. Have the pan's lid close by.
Test the oil by dropping a small pinch of flour into the hot oil. If the flour sizzles the oil is ready. If it burns, remove the pot from the heat and let the oil cool down a little.
4 Dredge the buttermilk coated onion rings in the flour mixture and fry in the oil: Working in batches as not to crowd the pan, lift onion rings out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the flour mixture to coat. Use tongs to place the rings one by one into the hot oil. Fry for a minute on each side, until golden brown.
5 Keep warm in oven: Place the fried onion rings on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Keep the fried onion rings warm in a 200°F oven while you fry the rest of the rings.
Add more oil if needed between batches. Let the oil heat back up to 350°F before starting a new batch.
Note: It's best not to pour the leftover oil down the drain. Better to pour into an extra empty jar, and discard with your trash.