Fried Sweet Onion Rings

from The New Southern Cook

You can't go wrong with onion rings, especially if they are made with sweet onions. You can simply dip onion rings into milk and then into flour; they will fry to a golden brown with a crispy coating. Some recipes call for a sticky batter, others call for thin ones. Some have baking powder and some have egg whites. This one is made with beer -- something most southerners have sitting around.

This is a large recipe to serve 8 people, but I figure if you're deep frying, you may as well get your money's worth out of the oil. I use an outdoor burner and a large pot. I still have to work in batches, but I offer baskets of onion rings as they come out of the grease. My guests enjoy a drink on the patio while I fry the onions.

Start making the batter up at least an hour before you plan to fry because it must rest.

2 cups flour
¾ teaspoon salt
a 12-ounce beer, flat and at room temperature
¼ cup peanut oil, plus peanut oil for frying
2 egg whites
4 large, rather flat sweet onions, about ¾ pound each

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Combine the beer and the oil. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring with a wire whisk only until combined. Do not beat the batter. Let it stand for at least an hour.

To prepare the onions for frying, cut ½-inch slices of peeled onions and carefully separate into rings. Large, flat onions will separate into nice rings almost all the way to the center. Save the centers for use in a salad or another dish.

When you are ready to fry, heat at least 2 inches of oil in a large pot over high heat. While the oil is heating, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, then fold them into the batter, working lightly.

Dip the rings into the batter, then drop into the oil heated to 365°. Do not crowd the pot. Fry until golden brown all over, then remove from the pot, holding each onion ring for a moment over the pot so that any excess oil drains off. Place on a rack, then continue frying. Serve when you have a plateful. They stay hot for awhile. Be sure to wait for the oil to return to 365° before adding the next batch, and try to maintain that temperature throughout the frying.

Let your diners salt their own. They'll get soggy if you salt them before serving.

Serves 8.