By Matt Duckor, Epicurious
Most of the foods we loved in our youth are forgettable when you really think about it. Eating Bagel Bites is like struggling to chew off damp pieces of cardboard. Lunchables were clearly dreamed up by a branding genius that made kids think it was cool to assemble meals from depressing processed ingredients.
But then there are onion rings. Even the slightly soggy ones fried in oil that should have been changed long ago aren't that bad. But what about a truly a great onion ring? Can one even achieve greatness when the dish is so simple and the stakes are so low?
Chef Spencer Bezaire of L & E Oyster Bar in Los Angeles set out to answer that question. As it turns out, it's not only entirely possible to blow minds and break hearts with fried onion slices -- it's totally doable at home.
The man does amazing things with seafood at this East LA spot, turning out genius plates of everything from smoked, marinated mussels to a Dungeness Crab Louis topped with pickled vegetables. But it's Bezaire's perfect onion rings that really caught our attention on a recent visit.
They arrive stacked high on a plate, the better to show off their husky, oversized form factor. A bite yields an immediate crunch, the kind that sends a jolt of pleasure up through your jaw and all the way to your cerebral cortex. But, almost immediately, you notice just how light and tempura-like the coating is. And, woah, there's a bit of spice there, but it doesn't cover up the hint of another flavor creeping in--is that beer?
Basically, there's a lot going on in these onion rings. Bezaire broke things down for us, unlocking the ring-shaped genius behind his fried onions:
1. KEEP THE BATTER LIGHT WITH EGG, WATER, CORNSTARCH AND BEER
Our number-one issue with onion rings is that they're often held back by an overly greasy, heavy fried shell that contains the onion. Bezaire's solution was to develop what essentially amounts to a delicate tempura batter. The combination of egg, cornstarch, and water, along with the batter's flour and other spices (more on that in a second) keep things light. And the alcohol content of the beer ensures a crisp exterior that fries fast so the onion doesn't get overcooked (because, science).
2. SEASON YOUR FLOUR
Bezaire was looking to really boost the flavor so his onion rings didn't just taste like frying oil and onion. Countless recipes for onion rings call for cayenne pepper, but the chef opted to add a whole mess of ingredients to boost the overall deliciousness of the onion rings. Garlic and onion powder, cayenne, sugar, and salt ensure that the final product will be flavor-packed and savory, with a subtle hit of spiciness.
Now, we're not saying you have to forget all of those bad bowling-alley onion rings you scarfed down over the years--it's just something that kind of just happens the first time you make these.
Get the Recipe: Beer-Battered Onion Rings
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