Friday, June 22, 2012

Batter Up: Onion Rings on Your Home Plate a Sure Fire Hit-From The Food Guy

Luring folks back to the restaurant scene after the festive feasts of December is no small challenge, but a sizzling NBA season, football playoffs, and of course, the Super Bowl, can bring them all back for some fantastic appetizers and deep fried dining. At the fragrant top of sports-fueled appetizers are piles of crispy, battered circles of perfection better known as onion rings—a great way to ring in the new year and ring up sales.

Circling back: Worship of the onion goes all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the rings and round shape represented eternal life. The exact origins of the onion ring are unknown, but several different, equally intriguing claims are made.  A recipe for French Fried Onions may have appeared in the Middletown, NY Daily Times in 1910, the earliest mention. The Pig Stand restaurant chain in Oak Cliff, Texas, takes credit for inventing the onion ring in 1929, when one of their cooks accidentally dropped a ring of onion into a bowl of batter, fished it out and instinctively plunged it into a nearby vat of hot cooking oil. The battered onion ring became an instant hit and a permanent addition to the Pig Stand menu. Crisco weighs in with a deep fried onion ring recipe—dipped in milk then dredged in flour—that appeared in a 1933 advertisement in New York Times Magazine. The first commercial manufacture of natural, raw, breaded onion rings is claimed by Sam Quigley who started selling hand-cut rings out of his Nebraska storefront in 1955, and in 1959, built a plant to handle the demand for his "ready to serve" onion rings and in 1973 snagged Dairy Queen as one of their best customers.

In the spotlight: Today, onion rings are still best sellers at Dairy Queen, as well as Burger King, Chili’s, Nathan’s, A&W, and countless numerous gourmet hamburger restaurants and steakhouses. But it was a modest $2.75 bowl of onion rings at Holsten’s restaurant in New Jersey that was proclaimed “best in the state” by Tony Soprano in the final episode of the “The Sopranos.”  While restaurant owners Stark and Carley are thrilled with the ‘mobs’ that episode mention attracted, they’ve toned down the hype. “They’re good,” Mr. Stark said in a recent New York Times article. “Do I believe they’re the best in the state? Well, believe me; a lot of other restaurants sell the same thing.”

Put a ring on it: June 22, National Onion Ring Day.

More popular than the Bieber? A quick search reveals - Yes, a Facebook Onion Ring page counted 2,152,536 fans to Justin Bieber’s 1,648,758 fans.

Absolute Best Fried Vidalia Onion Rings: Courtesy of some culinary friends from across the country and the Food Network:

Several large Vidalia onions
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, separated
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon Optimax oil
Peanut oil, for deep-frying

Slice onions into rings. In one bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. In another bowl, beat egg yolk, then stir in milk and vegetable oil. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stir until smooth. In a third bowl, beat egg white until soft peaks form, and then fold into the egg-flour mixture, stirring until smooth. Dip onion rings into batter and deep fry until golden brown. Amazing!