This month, The Virtual Supper Club visits the Country Fair ...
Can country fair fare be made 'lighter' ? Believe it or not, yes! And here's the proof ... this batter has no egg yolk and no milk. There is no deep-fried method in making the rings ... there's a quick stove-top fry in minimal canola oil and then a finish in a hot oven to complete cooking the onions and build a crispy crust (that would have been accomplished in that sea of hot grease!). So ... let me digress a bit ...
What do YOU go straight for when the summertime country fairs pop up ???? These are my guilty pleasure! We head straight for the fried onion rings and the fresh-squeezed lemonade stands, and when we're loaded down with goodies, we head for the barn that hosts the horse-pulling competition. I love seeing a good team of beautifully groomed horses working together to pull those heavy loads. Have you ever seen cattle or horse teams do things the 'old-fashioned way' ? It takes a special relationship between the driver and the two critters to pull those cement blocks. Back in the day, the teams would be using their energy to plow the fields, or pull logs out of the back forty, or drag a snow roller along a country road, or haul loads to market, or ... any old-fashioned job. Today, those jobs are translated to increasingly heavy loads of cement blocks.
Can you tell that I love the old ways being maintained by the 'new farmers' ? I do, and I love country fairs because I love seeing the 4-H kids grooming their sheep, milking their goats, showing their best garden-raised vegetables. I love having ice cream at the church booths and talking with the ladies about their holiday fair plans. I love poking around the Grange building to see what agricultural issues the folks are concentrating on. I get a kick out of watching the old-timers talking up the cattle in the dairy barns. There is NOTHING like a country fair !
Back to my favorite fair junk food, though!
In this recipe, it's the beer and the spices that work together to make big flavour. This Cooking Light recipe, though, cuts the fat level down dramatically from the typical fried onion ring recipe. The batter has an egg white and no yolk, beer instead of milk. The onion rings are quick fried in minimal canola oil. What little oil used is then soaked up quickly on paper towels. Then, the onion rings are finished in a really hot oven. This crisps the crust and cooks the onions to a turn. Served piping hot with ketchup for dipping, these are the best! No fancy schmancy ... just down home fair food! I love it, but I'm a hick at heart!
The key to this recipe is cutting the onion slices a precise half-inch thickness. The recipe uses just enough canola oil to have the rings fry just about 'half way up' ... about two minutes per side. Then the onion rings are drained quickly on a paper towel-lined plate and placed on a cookie sheet that's spritzed with cooking spray. They are finished for ten minutes in a hot oven. This serves to finish cooking the onions and crisp up the coating to a really nice 'crunch' !
Honestly? I am a convert to this method of making onion rings! Really! Truly!
I was a cynic ... and will admit that yesterday, SB and I went to a really good roadside stand to have conventional deep-fried onion rings ... so that I could honestly compare the experience. They were awesome! BUT ... they were really greasy and salty. I loved them.
Today, though, I made the rings you see above. The crust was more flavourful. The rings weren't very greasy, but they had incredible crunch. The onions were perfectly cooked and separated when you bit into them ... I think using Vidalia onions has a whole lot to do with that! They are thicker fleshed and they cooked perfectly in the oven. They are also huge onions that have a great 'curve' to the ring that holds the batter really well.
So ... here's the recipe and here are the offerings that others are contributing to this month's trip to the country fair! Take a look ... looking has no calorie count, after all, and these are lightened up, to boot!
Sarah's - Taco In a Bag
Sandi's - Caramelized Banana Sundaes
Beer Battered Onion Rings
slightly adapted from a Cooking Light recipe
2 large Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced into ½ inch thick rings
⅔ c. flour, sifted
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp, crushed dried parsley
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ to ⅔ c. cold beer
1 large egg white
4 tbsp. canola oil, divided
Cooking spray for the cookie sheet.
Making the Dish:
- Preheat the oven to 400 ° F. and spritz a cookie sheet lightly with some canola oil cooking spray. Set the sheet aside.
- Line another cookie sheet with some paper towels and set that aside.
- Slice the Vidalia onions and separate the rings, taking the outer rings and reserving the tiny central rings for another purpose. You should have about 16 to 20 large onion rings.
- Mix the dry batter ingredients in a bowl. Add the beer and egg white and mix to form a thick batter. Set the batter aside for fifteen minute to let it thicken up a bit.
- Place 2 tbsp. of the canola oil in a fry pan and heat over medium-high heat on the stove top.
- When the oil is hot and has swirls in it, toss half the onion rings in the batter. Coat them well and carefully drop them into the hot oil. Fry them for 1 ½ minutes, until golden brown, flip with tongs and continue frying until golden – another minute or so.
- Transfer them to the paper-towel lined plate.
- Place the other 2 tbsp. oil in the hot pan and let it come up to temperature. Dip the other half of the rings in the batter and fry them, drain them on the paper towels too.
- Place the drained onion rings on the prepared cookie sheet, sprinkle with just a bit more Kosher salt and place them in the hot oven for ten minutes.
- Remove them and serve immediately with ketchup for dipping.
Serves 3 or 4
Note: To keep the oil use to the minimum, I placed the smaller rings inside the big ones in the pan to utilize space to the max. That way, I could cook a lot of rings in two batches.