October 27, 2008

Cornmeal Fried Onion Rings

I know, I know...onion rings. Onion rings! Can you hear my arteries begging for salad? I can. Onion rings may seem a little pedestrian, but when prepared correctly (homemade from scratch) they are delicious. And, I might add, a classic pairing with steak. As I mentioned in my steak post, this is another Barefoot Contessa recipe. For the record...just to be clear...I love Ina. I may love Ina more than any other chef I have professed my love for on this blog before. It is that serious between us.

Cornmeal Fried Onion Rings

2 large Spanish onions (or 3 yellow onions)
2 cups buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (medium) yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1 quart vegetable oil

Peel the onions, slice them 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings, toss well, and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (The onion rings can sit in the buttermilk for a few hours.)
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.
When you're ready to fry the onion rings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large pot or Dutch oven. (A candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot will help you maintain the proper temperature.) Working in batches, lift some onions out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the flour mixture. Drop into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown, turning them once with tongs. Don't crowd them! Place the finished onion rings on the baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the next batch. Continue frying the onion rings and placing them in the warm oven until all the onions are fried. They will remain crisp in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Jen's Notes:
The onions I found were huge, so I am only using one whole onion. Also, I am toying with putting cayenne pepper in the batter. I like onion rings with a tiny bit of zip to them. If I do use cayenne pepper, it will be just a tiny amount...I don't want to overwhelm the flavor with spice this time.

The Result:
Well, I tried. Let's review, shall we...

Onion Rings: Fabulous.
Roquefort Cheese Sauce: Fabulous.
Broccoli: Fabulous.
Steak: Tasted like an old brown shoe.

Okay, everything came out great...EXCEPT I overcooked the steak. Not just by a little bit, but by a lot. It was seriously reminiscent of beef jerky. Yeah. The recipe does not have a cook time approximation for the steak to be done. Even if it did, I used a thinner cut of steak. I was screwed! I got busy with the cheese sauce, and before I knew it, the steak had the texture of rawhide. Ugh. It was edible, just not enjoyable. Also, I forgot that kosher salt is way saltier than fleur de sel (fancy French sea salt). So, I did not adjust my steak-rub salt quantity to compensate for the extra salinity. Needless to say, it was way too salty. Double Ugh. Again, it was edible...just not enjoyable. Everything else turned out great, I just need a do-over with the steak. I think if the steak was the right cut of steak (thick filet mignon) cooked properly (not turned into carbon) with the correct ingredients (fleur de sel) this would have been excellent. You could taste the potential deliciousness. I am so disappointed in myself. I failed Ina. Obviously, my steak cooking abilities need improving. Sigh. Now Ina will never adopt me!

Okay, on a positive note the onion rings were great. I think this recipe was one of the best versions I have ever had. I used Walla Walla Sweet Onions and I did add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder to the flour mixture. Oh man, fan-freakin'-tastic. The husband and boy agreed...it was our one shining spotlight on this otherwise somber occasion. Oh, and the cheese sauce was sinful. It was so, so good. If you love blue cheese I recommend this cheese sauce on meat. The Gorgonzola was a perfect substitution and it melted beautifully...like velvet. Hey, at least I got that right!

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