Onion strings are such fun. They’re kind of miraculous, actually. One lone onion will explode into enough crispy strings to satisfy a hungry foursome. Add a few cold beers and you’ve got a party. Use a sweet Vidalia onion and make a peppery horseradish sauce to go alongside them, and you’ve got an even better party.
I like onion strings because they’re pretty foolproof. They are so thin that they don’t need a lot of batter or complicated frying to make them come out light and crispy. I use a simple buttermilk soak and seasoned cornmeal dusting before they go into the hot oil. They fry up in about a minute and a half. The other nice thing about onion strings is that they don’t get soggy if you have to make them ahead of time (like thicker onion rings sometimes do.) Reheat them in a warm oven and they’ll be perfect.
Anyone who loves onion rings knows you don’t need anything to go with them, they taste just perfect on their own. But I always like to take it a step further and serve them with a creative dip of some sort. It helps to reinforce the feeling that I’m in a fun bar or pub somewhere, getting away from it all, even if I’m actually watching the 6 o’clock news on the couch. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a huge fan of horseradish. I keep a bottle of this amazing horseradish cream in the fridge at all times. For this dip I mixed it with some of my HOMEMADE 30-SECOND MAYO (or mayo from a jar) a squeeze of lemon, and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. That basic concept can be tweaked to make a sauce for steak or beef, a sandwich spread, and even a zesty salad dressing. I use it a lot when I want a real punchy flavor.
- vegetable oil for frying (to a depth of at least 3 inches)
- 1 good sized Vidalia onion
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp horseradish cream
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- a dash of salt
- lots of freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Peel and thinly slice the onion. I use my mandoline slicer set between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.
- Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl and add the onions, carefully separating the rings with your fingers.
- In a pie plate or similar dish toss together the cornmeal, salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large pot to a temperature of 340-350F. A clip on thermometer helps.
- When the oil is hot, grab a handful of rings from the buttermilk and let the excess drip off. Toss them in the cornmeal, coating all surfaces. Shake off any excess before dropping them in the oil. Fry for about a minute and a half, until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels. (Fry the onions in batches to avoid crowding the pan.)
- Mix the horseradish aioli ingredients together and serve with the onion strings.
Double or triple the recipe if you like, but make separate batches of the cornmeal mixture because it will get increasingly clumped as the wet onion rings are dredged in it.
If you love Vidalia onions like I do, try some of my other favorite ways to use them —