Baked Onion Rings with Old Bay

by feastonthecheap on December 13, 2011

Mary Anne here. True, I am an onion ring fanatic, but I believe there is nary a fried food that stacks up to a deep-fried, batter-crisped sweet onion. That being said, while December typically signals a break from bathing suit season, my annual trip to the tropics means I should probably be taking a plunge into the cold waters of abstinence.

Unfortunately for my waistline, these diner classics have been on my mind ever since dining with one of my favorite colleagues at a cute little spot that was a “Mom and Pop” sort of operation. Certain that the folks behind the counter wouldn’t let me down, I convinced my lunch partner to share a platter of decadent fried onion rings. What a mistake. The rings from Ma and Pa were “fresh” out of the freezer and the minced onion was ensconced in a mushy, flavorless crust. Not worth it. Ever since that disappointing dive into the deep fryer, I’ve vowed to recreate them for real.

As bathing suits loom in my future (what a luxury problem), I decided the only way I could justify creating a batch of crispy rings was to bake ‘em instead of turning to the deep fryer. I used Mariel’s Sweet Potato Fries as my muse, adopting her brilliant use of Old Bay and, because I wanted the crust to be light but super crunchy, I finely ground Panko crumbs in the food processor. These rings are pretty messy to make with all the dipping and dredging, but pure heaven to bite into. I was so shocked at how good they were, I didn’t even dip the first three into ketchup or a spicy remoulade from my Shrimp Po’ Boys recipe – I guiltlessly gorged on them hot off the cookie sheet!

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Baked Onion Rings with Old Bay
Serves 6

Tip: Pour the Panko crumbs into the bowl of a food processor armed with the steel blade. Press pulse several times until the crumbs are finely ground. Proceed with measuring.

To reheat the baked rings: Bring back to room temperature about 1 hour before serving. Re-crisp in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Note: These can easily be made gluten-free. Simply swap in rice flour and one of the many gluten-free crumbs available in Health Food stores.

Ingredients:
1 lb. medium-size Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices – $1.29
¾ cup flour – stock
2 Teaspoons baking powder – stock
3 eggs, lightly beaten – stock
1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs – $1.50
1 heaping tablespoon Old Bay seasoning – stock
½ Teaspoon salt – stock
Cooking spray
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $2.79
Total Per Serving: $0.46

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Note: If your oven isn’t wide enough to accommodate 2 cookie trays on 1 rack, position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven.

2. Generously spray 2 large cookie sheets with Pam or a similar product.

3. Peel and slice the onions ½-inch thick. Separate the rings. (Save the smallest rings for soup stock or add to a salad.)

4. Fill a large bowl with water and ice cubes. Place the onion rings in the water to cover for about 15 minutes. Drain well. Note: The ice water helps the batter adhere to the onions.

5. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl. In a second bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Using a large plastic bag, combine the Panko crumbs, Old Bay, and salt.

6. Dredge one onion ring at a time into the flour mix, shaking off the excess. Dip in the egg, allowing the excess to drip off. Transfer to the breadcrumb mixture and shake gently to coat.

7. Transfer the prepared rings to the cookie sheets and spray each generously with the cooking spray.

8. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn each ring over. If using 2 racks in the oven, switch the position of the cookie sheets.

9. Bake an additional 10 minutes until golden and very crispy.