Has some inventive hipster created vegetarian calamari yet? If not, I call dibs because that is EXACTLY what these onion rings taste like (credit to my partner, Sean, who was actually the one to make that realization, but I swear I would have if my mouth hadn’t been so tired from crunching down on so many onion rings). Garlicky and lemony, these little treats are exactly what I want to eat when I’m a) a bit drunk, b) a lot drunk, or c) hungover. They are, to dredge up a terrible 90s phrase, DA BOMB.
Brown Butter Onion Rings with Lemon, Parsley, and Garlic Aioli
Onion rings adapted from Bon Appetit (March 2016)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
2 tbsp olive oil
200 ml (this is between ¾ - 1 cup’s worth) canola oil or other neutral-tasting oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large red onion, cut into ¼-inch rounds, separated into rings
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
Flaky salt, for sprinkling
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped parsley (preferably flat-leaf/Italian)
Start by making the aioli. On a cutting board, crush the garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife and sprinkle with salt. Mince the garlic to a paste, scraping and spreading it a few times with the knife. The salt really helps the garlic break down as it acts kind of like a pumice. Transfer the garlic-salt paste to a blender and add the egg. Pour in the 2 tbsp olive oil and blend for 1 full minute. With the motor still running, drizzle in the canola oil drop-by-drop until you have about ½ cup left, and then drizzle in a thin, steady stream. This should take you at least 2 more minutes as the oil needs to be poured SUPER slowly to stop the aioli from splitting (this happens when the fat isn’t emulsified properly and basically means you’ve wrecked your aioli and must start again). You will initially notice a lot of splattering happening, but this should slow down as the mixture begins to thicken with the oil. Aioli is just a fancy word for mayonnaise, so your end product should look almost exactly like mayo. Scrape the aioli into a jar/bowl, cover, and chill until ready to use. The aioli keeps for about 5 days.
Now start on the onion rings! Pour the buttermilk into a medium bowl and the flour into another medium bowl. Season the flour generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches (I found that 3 separate batches was about right), toss the onion rings in the flour and shake off any excess. Dip the rings into the buttermilk and let excess drip off before tossing BACK into the flour again. Shake off any excess flour and place the onion rings on a plate while you brown the butter.
Prepare a baking sheet by placing a cooling rack inside it and lining the rack with a layer of paper towel. Heat 4 tbsp (½ stick) butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Stir the butter occasionally until it just starts to turn brown (the little white milk particles will be the first to turn golden-brown). Place the prepared onion rings gently in the pan and immediately turn the heat down just slightly so that the butter doesn’t burn. Turn the onion rings once, about 4-5 minutes into cooking. The rings will take about 8-10 minutes total and should become crispy and golden. Transfer the finished rings to the prepared baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with the flaky salt. Repeat with remaining 2 batches, wiping the pan out between batches and re-browning another ¼ cup butter each time (the browning gets faster after the first time since the pan is already so hot).
Toss the onion rings with the lemon zest and parsley. Serve alongside garlic aioli. Don’t make out with anyone for at least a week.