For me, onion rings are a weakness bordering on obsession; a perfectly fried o-ring is a thing of beauty. When dining out, I order them constantly and will even pay a couple of bucks more to substitute onion rings for fries. While some are good, and others just acceptable, I am mostly disappointed. Even at home, I have tried many different approaches and an assortment of flavor enhancers, but I still can’t truthfully call myself a ringmaster. Until I discovered my Cajun onion rings.
This is the definitive onion ring, or should I say, the definitive Crazy-Crisp Cajun Onion Rings. It is the crazy level of crispness that is achieved in this Cajun recipe technique that sets this one apart. It took tons of research and numerous trial-and-error-and-trial-again attempts to arrive at this formula (and it is a scientific formula rather than a recipe), but follow it, and you will achieve o-ring greatness.
Years ago I learned an Asian trick of using rice flour for crispness and most recently I stumbled on Wondra flour as a magic ingredient. When you combine these ingredients along with White Lily self-rising flour, you have a formula for crackling crispness.
Flavor is another subject altogether. My Cajun Onion Rings recipe version adds a thing or two that I believe separates these from the rest of the pack. A heavy dose of Cajun seasoning in the soaking as well as in the batter adds just the right amount of spice. Find a sweet onion for gentler flavor and soak them. Use a beer batter to give malty heft to the batter and add cane vinegar for a bit of zing. Oh, and another thing–lard.
I’ve found that frying in hog’s lard creates a crispness that is hard to duplicate with any other fat. Also, there is nothing that imparts flavor better than rendered hog lard and, even more importantly, I had a freezer full of cubed pork fat from the butchered whole hog I recently bought from farmer Charles Thompson. But, here’s a surprise. After reading some online research on the subject of lard, I discovered another reason–it’s healthy.
Praise the lard! Yes, according to some great research at Healthy Green Kitchen, the dreaded pig fat is actually a vitamin-enriched and clean oil that can be used in a variety of ways. The research is quick to point out that we are talking about rendered fat from a grass-fed, pastured pig, not commercially available generic lard that you buy in the supermarket.
Fresh properly rendered lard is actually as healthy as olive oil and contains mega vitamin D and has less saturated fat than butter. Now, I am not expecting you to go “pioneer” on me and begin raising your own hogs and rendering fat, but it does open up a whole new way of looking at our local food supply. And after all, that’s what the Cajun recipe focus of Acadiana Table is all about. Also, if you want to experiment with locally-rendered, clean hog lard then Don’s Specialty Meats in Scott, Louisiana has done the work for you–you can buy it in gallon jars. And if you want to buy fresh hog lard–leaf lard, too–straight from a local Acadiana farm, call my friend Charles Thompson in Youngsville, LA (337- 856-4296) and he’ll have it for you to pick up Saturday morning at the Hub City Farmer’s Market in Lafayette’s Oil Center.
I think one of the key lessons here is how to fry your onions so the batter doesn’t come off in your mouth with the first bite. This annoying trait of thick-cut onion rings is one of the reasons I am in such awe of perfectly cooked ones when I find them. Seems the key to this is eliminating moisture. The thickness of your ring will determine how much moisture leaches out of the wings during frying. Too thick and you have a mouthful of batter and an exposed steaming slice of onion. I go for a medium thickness to insure crispness.
Believe me, these crazy crispy Cajun Onion Rings are worth pursuing, and with these Cajun recipe steps you too will become a ringmaster.
- 4 yellow onions, peeled and sliced into medium thick rounds
- 1 cup cold beer
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup sugarcane vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Creole mustard or coarse-grained mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Kosher salt
- 1 gallon hog lard
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1 cup Wondra flour
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- ¼ cup Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Kosher salt
- In a large zip lock bag, add all the onions. Pour in the beer, buttermilk, and vinegar. Season with Cajun seasoning along with salt and pepper. Seal the bag and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
- In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients and stir. Cover and refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 200ºF.
- In a large wide pot on medium heat, add the lard and bring to 375ºF.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flours along with the Cajun seasoning. Remove the bag of marinade from the refrigerator and pour off the liquid into the mixing bowl. Stir the dry and wet ingredients together until it forms a smooth batter. Add a bit of water if it is too thick.
- Place the onions rings into the batter and coat. Several at a time remove the rings and shake excess batter from them and slowly add them individually to the hot lard. They will float to the surface and begin crisping immediately. Repeat in batches until you have filled the pot without crowding the rings. When the rings brown on one side, turn them over and let cook until golden brown. After each batch, sprinkle with salt and move the fried onion rings to a rack-lined metal sheet pan placed into the oven for keeping warm. Once all of the onion rings are finished cooking, place the tray on the table and serve with the spicy dipping sauce.
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