Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Onion Rings... if you love them, you can name in a second the best ones you've ever had! For me it was Clear Springs in New Braunfels, Texas. Friday nights we'd head north on Highway 46, halfway between Seguin and New Braunfels set an old dancehouse. They were famous for their catfish, and even if you weren't in the mood for fish... you'd most likely order it because it smelled so-dang-good!
Our GRANDson Jackson would be with us, we'd almost always start with an order of onion rings. We only made the mistake once of ordering the "Texas Size," surely they mean it's big enough for ALL of Texas! They were as close to perfect as you can get and be an onion ring. I have a recipe that's worthy to be called "close." It comes from Cooks Country and it's more than just measurements, it troubleshoots the common mistakes that restaurants and home cooks make when preparing. All you ever need to make the best onion rings you ever put in your mouth....DANGEROUS!
Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Serves 4 to 6
2 sweet onions, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds (use a sweet Vidalia)
3 cups beer (use a dark beer like Shiner Bock)
2 teaspoons malt vinegar (next to the other vinegars at the grocery)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1. Soak onions: Place onion rounds, 2 cups beer, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a zip-lock bag; refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
2. Make batter: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.
While oil is heating, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in 3/4 cup beer until just combined (some lumps will remain). Whisk in remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until batter falls from whisk in a steady stream and leaves faint trail across surface of batter.
3. Fry rings: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Remove onions from refrigerator and pour off liquid. Pat onion rounds dry with paper towels and separate into rings. Transfer one-third portion of rings to batter. One at a time, carefully transfer battered rings to oil. Fry until rings are golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through frying. Drain rings on paper towel-lined baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and transfer to oven. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining onion rings and batter. Serve.
Troubleshooting Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Problem: Crunchy onions.
Solution: Soak in beer. Soaking the rings in a combination of beer, vinegar and salt softens and flavors the raw onion. Just don't soak longer than 2 hours or they get too soft!
Problem: Bad battering.
Solution: Add beer gradually. If the batter is too thick, the rings will be doughy; too thin and it will run off. Add the beer gradually until the batter falls from a whisk to form a ribbon trail.
Problem: Fused onion rings.
Solution: Don’t crowd the pot. Fry the battered onion rings in small batches and transfer them one at a time to the hot oil so they don’t stick together.
*The land where the restaurant now sets was originally surveyed by James Bowie, a hero of the Alamo, in 1825. Clear Springs Hall and Store was built in 1873 for storing cotton. At the height of cotton production it was normal to see cotton wagons backed up long distances to be weighed. It was also common for the drivers to spend their waiting time shopping and visiting at the Clear Springs Store. The store and saloon were the only establishments of their kind for several miles. The dance hall, now the restaurant, provided for community gatherings, such as dances, parties, plays, school functions, and political rallies. The historical Clear Springs Hall and Store now houses Clear Springs Restaurant which has preserved the historical atmosphere of the structure and the memory of the early German community.