These are nearly the same onion rings that I paired with my grandma’s skillet burgers a couple months back. I had to include a cornmeal-crusted onion ring because I love that rubbly crunch they give you (also I love Smitten Kitchen lady for introducing the word “rubbly” to my food vocabulary). When paired with the honey butter – a natural companion for any savoury application involving cornmeal – these onion rings perfectly exemplify why sweet and salty are unequivocally the best match of all time.
Cornmeal-Crusted Onion Rings with Honey Butter
Adapted from Saveur (Cornmeal-Crusted Onion Rings)
1 large sweet onion (or 2 medium), sliced into ½ -inch thick circles, separated into rings
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt + sea salt for sprinkling
Canola oil, for deep-frying
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp icing sugar
Pinch of salt (optional, but I almost always put a touch of salt in anything that is so sweet-forward)
Place the separated onion rings in a large bowl of ice water for 30 minutes then drain (this takes the bite out of the onions significantly). Meanwhile, take out 3 shallow bowls. Place 1 cup flour into the first one and the buttermilk and whole milk into the second. In the third bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, baking powder, and kosher salt.
Set a large cooling rack inside a baking sheet and top with a layer of paper towel. Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large deep-sided frying pan or heavy pot. Ideally the oil should reach close to 2 inches deep. Using a candy thermometer, heat the oil to 350 degrees F. This takes 10+ minutes sometimes, depending on the amount of oil you’ve wound up using and the vessel used to fry in. While the oil heats, go ahead and dredge the first batch of onion rings by dipping each ring in the flour, then in the milk mixture, then in the cornmeal mixture. It helps to use a designated “dry hand” and “wet hand” to avoid having to do too much hand-washing. Place the coated onion rings on a plate.
Once the oil is nice and hot, gently lower in a few onion rings using tongs, but take care to not crowd the pan. I find this means frying no more than about 5 onion rings at a time. Cook about 1-2 minutes, flipping once, until golden and crisp. Place the fried rings on the prepared baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with sea salt. Keep warm in a low oven. Repeat until all of the onion rings have been cooked, scooping out any particularly large bits of debris that have accumulated in the oil.
As you’re frying the last batch of onion rings, place the butter in a small pot and melt over medium heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey and icing sugar until dissolved (reheat slightly if the mixture does not become smooth or incorporated). Set aside.
Serve the onion rings hot (or just warm – these ones honestly stay crunchy for a good bit of time, which is nice) and with individual ramekins of honey butter for dipping. As you chew, ponder why more people don’t write ballads involving the union of sweet and salty.