My buddy hiked the Appalachian Trail a couple of years ago. He lived with me for a few months after that, and somehow I ended up with some of his leftover food. When I say food I actually mean things his parents thought would work good on the AT but are actually impulse buys of hungry but well-meaning parents in the grocery store.
This cache of food has come to be known as “The Drunk Food”. TDF is a mishmash of the most horrible crap known to man but to a drunkard is a buffet of the gods. Well, it used to be. Long gone are the Slim Jims, a long lost memory the cans of tuna. As time slowly progresses and the 2 year anniversary of TDF approaches, the worse for wear we become. Feast your drunken eyes on these remaining treats: 4 blend refried beans, non-descript stone bar in white vacuum bag, angel hair with add in sauce mix and . . . what’s this?! Interesting. . .
Concord Foods Onion Ring Batter mix*
Oh, the luscious onion rings on the platter in the picture. I will cook onion rings. Oh yes, I will. If the delusional senior citizen parents of a friend believes that their son, in the depths of the Appalachian Mountains, can fry up tasty onion rings, I believe. . . no, I know I can do it in my suburban kitchen.
But rings are for wimps. Rings are for sissies that boil water in the microwave and add 2 packets of instant grits and say it tastes like mama’s. Wait a minute. That’s exactly what I do. I remember the day (last winter?) when I called my mother excitedly: "MommommomguesswhatIboiledsomewaterandputinnoddlesandheatedsauceinthemicrowaveandmadeSPAGHETTI!!!OMFG!!!1111``1`
To hell with your DAMN ONION RINGS, **Concord Foods[b/]. I’m making a Blooming Onion! Damn straight.
Off to Publix for:
2 large Vidalia onions (Just in case we need another go-round. Yeah right.)
48oz Publix 100% Canola oil.
16 fl oz Ken’s Creamy Tomato Bacon dressing ('cause it’s the same color as the stuff in Outback)
Back home, mission accomplished. I can RTFM, so lets see:
1. Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 275F to 400F in deep-fat fryer or a 2-quart saucepan.*
What in the hell is a deep-fat fryer? Or a saucepan, for that matter? I have 3 options. Iron frying pan, big pot, little pot. Little pot it is. Less volume to waste precious Canola oil. I fill the bad boy up about 1/2 way with about 3 inches of oil, per instructions. I turn the knobby thing on the stove to about 9 o’clock. I say 9 o’clock because my goddamn stove doesn’t have degrees, so how in the hell am I supposed to know what 400F is? The oven part has degrees and 400F is about 9 o’clock, so I assume we’re being consistent.
While that’s warming up I go at my onion. This will be my greatest success. With a giant knife I go at slicing it down the middle after coring it. Why’d I core it? I don’t know, the brown knobby thing was annoying. Ha! Beautiful. My non-fried blooming onion is perfect in every way, even without that useless tool they sell on TV.
A glance at my oil tells me things are not progressing quickly enough. When I make spaghetti the damn stuff is boiling by now. I’ll turn it up all the way and put the top on the pot. That’ll help.
Ah, back to the instructions:
*2. Mix contents of package with 7 ounces of cold water until batter is smooth. *
Well I’m not feeding a damn family of 4 so I half it. I find a small glass and fill it half with water, half with powder. And mix it up. Looks smooth to me! (Just like Daddy )
***3.**Peel 3 large onions and slice into . . . . *
Blah blah blah. This section is totally irrelevant since I’m making a Blooming Onion! not onion rings. Next.
***4.*Fry, turning once, until crisp and light golden(2-3 minutes). Remove and briefly drain on paper towels. Serve promptly.
Ok, first of all, there will be no turning. I don’t believe that is how Blooming Onions! are created. Also, Concord Foods, that is a poorly constructed sentence. Removing and draining will be no problem except that perhaps we will use a t-shirt since there are no paper towels about. Serve promptly? You got it.
Back to the oil. This shit is still not boiling. It’s been wide open for 20 minutes and no boil. Too bad. The batter is ready. The onion is blooming, the t-shirt is ready. I take my batter and coat the soon to be Blooming Onion! and congratulate myself that I have rationed out what seems to be the perfect amount. Next I will be kicking it up a notch, no? Precariously balance my masterpiece with 2 knives, off the coating plate into the lukewarm oil that will probably take 20 years to fry this bad-boy but oh well.
You know those Japanese style restaurants where the chef pours a little oil on the table and lights it and everybody ooohs and ahhhs?
The onion splashes half the oil onto the burner. The electric burner. This immediately catches fire. Big time. Oil is splashing out on the stove and catching fire like a scene from Backdraft.
I am briefly stunned that my tranquil pool of oil-in-a-pot has turned into a jet engine but quickly realize that I can’t remember where the fire extinguisher is and simultaneously remember that water is going to do me no good. I alternately blow and hop, blow and hop. My cat is running around like he has firecrackers on his tail utterly confused at what in the hell is going on. After 4 or 5 weeks the oil burns itself out, for the most part just catching a little run-off.
I calm down a bit, realize that I’m not going to die and that the house will not burn down either. I’m left to look at my pitiful burning mass of onion, batter and plasma. It’s not pretty, but it’s sizzling like fries do at McDonalds, so maybe there is hope. I give the mess about 2 minutes and take it out.
It looks worse than it is. There is a skin over the whole deal that is the consistency of cheap halloween makeup. After that is surgically removed the result is a mix. The outside edges don’t look so bad but the inside still contains unfried batter, apparently because the halloween makeup has protected it. I sadly reach into the refrigerator for Ken’s Creamy Tomato Bacon dressing because I’ve made it this far. I can salvage a few strands of blooming onion that are kind of tasty but the rest . . .well, it’s just too sad for words.
So. To rectify my disaster, I need advice. If you’ve made it to the end of this god awful story odds are you may know where I went wrong. My guess is that I didn’t separate the onion pieces enough and let the batter get down in there. Also, my oil must have been too hot as well, but there are no units on the stove eyes and the only thermometer I have is anal. Any suggestions?
*scroll down 3/4ths. I love google.
[Disclaimer] Last night was the night I decided to cook a Blooming Onion!. Tonight was the night I tried. There was no drinking during any of this. Ok, I’ve had 3 Budweisers while writing this, but that’s par for the course. I only mention this because on a proofread it could be interpretted that the deciding, driving, shopping and cooking were under the influence. I wasn’t.[/Disclaimer]