Photo courtesy Vidalia® Onion Committee
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking powder2 cups (16 fl oz) beer, at room temperature1 teaspoon salt, plus salt to taste1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper4 egg whites, at room temperature2 1/2 cups (10 oz) fine dried bread crumbspeanut oil for deep-frying3 extra-large Vidalia onions (or Maui or Walla Walla or other sweet onion), cut crosswise into slives 3/4 inch (2cm) thick and separated into rings
1 cup (8 fl oz) catsup1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper1 fresh jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and minced
To make the onion rings, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, beer, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the batter. In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir to mix well.
In a deep, heavy sauté pan or saucepan, pour in peanut oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer, or until a little batter dropped into the oil sizzles immediately upon contact.
Dip the onion rings, a few at a time, into the batter, shaking off any excess. Next, dip the rings into the bread crumbs, coating them evenly and shaking off any excess. Place the breaded onion rings in a single layer on a baking sheet, separating the layers with waxed or parchment paper.
To make the chili catsup, in a small bowl, whisk together the catsup, cayenne pepper and jalapeno pepper. Set aside.
When the oil is ready, working in batches, slip the rings into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden brown and crisp 1-2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Arrange the hot onion rings on a platter and sprinkle with salt. Place the chili catsup alongside. Serve at once.
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