Early autumn is the time of year when summer theatrical troops transition from their summer venues to home bases. There’s often some time off between the schedules when theater groups take the opportunity to engage in the ribald antics of Renaissance Fairs. These fairs are replete with jousting knights, fair maidens and the requisite wenches to keep everyone entertained.
The food matches the theme, with visiting “peasants” walking around eating whole turkey legs and guzzling down tankards of beer. Another favorite food at the fairs is the Blooming Onion. This batter-dipped deep-fried sweet onion is a delicious snack that’s perfectly suited for eating with your fingers (peasant style). The trick to making the onion bloom is to cut it into very thin wedges, keeping a half-inch near root end intact. As the onion is fried it opens up into a crunchy flower shape.
You will need a deep heavy pot that is large enough to hold the onion and the frying oil. You don’t want the hot oil to overflow when you’re lowering in the onion, so here’s a little secret to staying safe: before you begin, place the whole unpeeled onion in your pot. Cover it with enough water to completely submerge (as you would while frying in oil). Remove the onion and mark the level of the water. Completely dry the onion and pot before continuing. When you pour in the oil for frying the blooming onion, make sure you keep the level at least a ½ inch below the line you marked. This will account for the larger density of the batter-coated onion and will keep your hot oil from overflowing. This same safe measuring technique works well for making deep-fried turkeys at Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that you will turn the onion as it is frying so it’s fine if you do not completely cover the onion with hot oil.
1 large sweet Vidalia onion
2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1 cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 gallon corn, soy or vegetable oil
Measure the amount of oil you will need in the pot by using the pre-cooking method described above. Make sure you dry the onion and pot very well before proceeding.
Cut ½ inch off the top of the onion and peel it, keeping the stem end intact. As described above, slice the onion from the top down into about 12 to 16 wedges keeping the slices together at the stem end.
Using the pam of your hand gently press down on the onion to separate the wedges and open up the slices.
Place the flour, salt and pepper into a gallon size Ziploc bag. Put the onion into the bag and gently shake to coat the onion with the flour.
Combine the eggs and milk in a small bowl and dip the floured onion into the mixture.
Once again place the onion into the bag with the flour and coat. You want to make sure there is plenty of batter between all of the onion petals. If it’s easier, place the onion on a small dish and pour the flour on top. Gently shake off any excess.
Using measuring technique described above, add oil to your pot and heat to 350 degrees.
Using a slotted spoon, slowly lower the battered onion into the oil, cut side down. Don’t release the onion from the spoon until you are certain that the hot oil will not overflow.
Fry for 3 minutes then gently turn the onion over and continue frying for another 3 minutes until the entire onion is a light golden brown.
Remove the onion and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
The Blooming Onion is delicious as-is but for an extra kick you can serve with a dip made from mayonnaise and a little Sriracha hot sauce. You could also add some seasoning to the flour miX such as garlic salt and cayenne for some extra pizzazz.