If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, these things are gastronomic Viagra. These onion rings have sweet, tender middles and a fantastically crisp coating. I use a tiny amount of parmesan cheese in the breading, which doesn’t give the onion rings a cheesy taste, but does make them deeply savoury and helps create the excellent colour. Cornmeal (rough polenta) gives them a wonderful crunch, and rice flour a pleasing crispiness.
Rice flour is a useful ingredient to keep in the kitchen. It’s usually available in Indian and Chinese grocers, and it has one very useful property – coatings made with it stay crisp even after the food has cooled. This makes it invaluable for summer picnics, when you can make breaded chicken, cool it on a rack, pop it in some Tupperware, drag it in a knapsack over miles of public footpath and take it out hours later, still crispy. These onion rings were never going to get the chance to go cold, but they do benefit from the delicate crisp you get from rice flour.
I always use a wok and a jam thermometer for deep frying; this way, you get through much less oil, and can easily control the temperature. When we finally get around to remodelling the kitchen and I have a bit more room to play with, I may end up buying a machine for deep frying; but deep frying is a cooking method I only use about five times a year, so I’m not completely convinced it’s worth the money and the counter space.
You’ll probably have some breading mixture left over. Just pop it in a bag and freeze it – you’ll find you can use it directly from the freezer on another occasion.
To make onion rings to serve four (or fewer, depending on greed), you’ll need:
2 large onions (buy the biggest ones you can find)
5 heaped tablespoons cornmeal (coarse polenta)
5 heaped tablespoons rice flour
3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
Milk to soak
Flavourless oil to deep fry
Slice the onions into thin rings (about half a centimetre thick). Set the oil to heat. Mix the cornmeal, rice flour, parmesan, curry powder and salt in a large bowl.
Separate the rings out. Dip each ring first into the milk, then dredge them in the breading mixture. Drop the rings into the hot oil (your thermometer should have a ‘deep fry’ marking on it – otherwise, use a machine) in small batches, and fry for about two minutes, until golden brown. Remove to a tray lined with kitchen paper in a single layer, and keep the tray warm in a very, very low oven while you cook the rest of the rings.
I served these with a steak (on which I’d used Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Blackened Steak blend – a hearty recommendation here if you can get hold of some) and mashed potatoes.