Bruce's Blooming Onion! or I'll take culinary disasters for $100, Alex.

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 :wink: )

***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 :frowning: 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]

All that work and I screw up the coding. Crap.

You don’t boil oil!!!

To properly deep fat fry, you REALLY need a thermometer to watch the temp unless you are experienced enough to see the signs of the ideal frying temp. The kind you need is cheap: just a 4 or 5 $ oil one with a simple probe and a clip to hold it on the pot wiht the probe not touching anything but oil.
Maintaining the perfect temp of the oil is key to a good fry: you want it hot enough so that the water in the batter instantly starts boiling out, but not so hot that the water is immediately ejected and splattery long before the food is even cooked.

Pretty much what Apos said - buy a thermometer.

Also, I’m pretty sure blooming onions are deep fat fried. Like, the whole thing is immersed in oil. You might be able to duplicate the process using only 3" of oil, but my guess is a full pot o’ oil is gonna work MUCH better.

Hint: Oil is cheap. And if you’re deep frying, it’s reusable. Just take the icky bits out of the oil once it’s cooled, pour into a tupperware type container, and store in the fridge until the next time you’re craving blooming onions.

Add a drop of water to the oil, if it rapidly boils off then your oil is ready or too hot.

You want to be DAMN careful with deep fat frying. You’re lucky only the splashes of oil caught fire. A deep pan of oil on fire is a scary and dangerous thing. (see pics here )

Like Apos said, you DON’T BOIL OIL. It gets to very high temperatures without boiling. It bubbles when you put the food in. A cheap way of finding out if it’s at frying heat is to drop in a little square of white bread about half an inch by half an inch. See how quickly it goes brown. If it goes dark brown fast, your oil’s way too hot. If it takes ages to get golden, it’s not hot enough. A proper oil thermometer is best though.

Good luck with your cooking. You might, er, think about practising some slightly easier and safer things than deep fat frying.

Wow. That first picture is pretty much what my stove looked like.

I will try again tonight and report my findings. Maybe I’ll try the frying pan tonight.

If you wanted a Blooming Onion, you should have just gone to Outback Steakhouse or any of the other places that sell them, and get one to go.
No need to burn down the house.

You do have a fire extinguisher, don’t you? I hope?
Or at least 911 on Speed dial?
Please don’t scorch yourself for an onion.

Bruce_Daddy I admire your moxy. Ol’ Duke had a similar Blooming Onion experience (more drinking, less fire, and a cohort named Roger, but other than that dead on to your account!)

And other than the deep frying advice given above, I’ll offer this.

Onion ring batter is too thick to get down into the many petals of the Blooming onion. Or maybe I should say too thick to get down in there and still cook. And “fanning” the petals to get more separation helped the oil get down in there.

We tried several times, and always had the gooey mess in the center. Then in a drunken moment of crystaline clarity we decided to thin the batter. Not with water, but milk. Water sounded like it would just wash the batter off. Milk…HHHhhhmmm that would coat the Blooming Onion!

Well, we went from abject failure to edible success!! Not as perfect as Outback, but good enough for a couple of drunks.

As with any endeavour in life, it sounds like you need to drink more.

That and practice with batter thickness. Made all the difference in our efforts, and our efforts were barely passable at best.

Not claiming to be the Master of the Blooming Onion, just trying to pass on our experiences with this fickle rose of culinary delight!

Milk?! Are you telling me that I must fulfill my yearly quota of two trips to the grocery store in one week?

Perhaps there is powdered milk among TDF!

Don’t despair! If you have the same run of luck as me and Drunken Roger, you’ll have to replentish your supply of most every other staple ingredient in the recipe as well, and I seriously doubt you have enough beer on hand to make many more attempts (based on the average consumption rate noted by Drunken Roger during our several attempts).

Godspeed, Bruce_Daddy!

Hee hee hee. Ah Bruce, thanks for the food-disaster reminder. I hadn’t thought about Sweet and Sour Weiners wrapped in Pillsbury tube biscuits for years.

Say what now? Is that an infamous story I’ve missed or a personal experience?

Do NOT try your frying pan. Hot oil spatters. Hot oil causes burns. Hot oil gets $#@! everywhere. A high-sided container is safest. And anyway you need to fully submerge your onion to achieve Blooming Onion-ness. Filling a frying pan to the brim with oil is quite possibly the only thing more dangerous than what you’ve already described.

Perhaps a fry-cooker would make a nice birthday present…?

another thing to remember about hot oil is that it expands, i.e. it takes up more volume than the same amount of cool oil. Before you start heating the oil, put the onion in the pot (I recommend the large pot instead of the small one) and fill the pot with water until the onion is entirely submerged. Mark the water level if you can or just remember about where it is. Empty the pot and then put the oil in, but don’t quite fill it to the level of the water. Now you can start heating the oil for frying. Don’t forget your oil thermometer! Have fun. Also, have the pot lid and a few towels handy in case of fire. If the fire is in the pot put the lid on and keep it there for a while and turn the burner off, but don’t move the pot. If the fire is outside the pot, wet the use the towels to smother the fire. It might be good for the towels to be slightly damp to help them not catch on fire, but I’m not sure.

:eek: For gods sake, don’t mess with cooking anything that involves hot oil if you’ve even had a few beers, let alone if you’re drunk. I’ve personally known at least two people who started house fires in this manner. (Granted, I may meet more than the statistical norm of people who’ve set their houses on fire given my years in AA, but still.)

I feel your pain. I’ve lost control of a jury rigged deep frier as well and I knew the risks when I decided to do it. Fortunately the second I saw a large flare up I slammed the lid down on the pan before I got a collumn of flame and dumped a box of baking soda (yes, I do have a fire extinguisher but why waste it when I can stop the fire with the soda; it was there as back up).

heee heee heee! Great Story, Bruce_Daddy. I glad you survived to try again so heres a low down on the things that puzzled you and maybe you’ll understand how and why your lil indoor barbeque happened.

**First of all. Deep fryer is a deep pot made of heavy metal to withstand the temperature you’ll be subjecting it to (up to 400 degress but no more) You can use a saucepan (its like a frying pan only with higher sides) but you’ll discolor it after heating it up. Follow the suggestions in this thread and get a thermometer you can dip into hot oil. The high sides should be obvious now that you experience the dangers of hot oil boil overs. The oil should only go half as high as your pans sides. If you need to immerse the bloomin onion you gotta have a pan that is deeper than the onion.

**Dont got a thermometer and are under the impression real (drunk) men dont need it? Heat the oil for 10 minutes under high heat then lower it to medium high. Test the oil by placing a battered onion peice into the oil. If it burns to a black char in 5 seconds, oil too hot, let it cool for 5 minutes under medium heat. The proper temperature is when you see the battered onion bubble and browns the batter slowly. If it just sinks does very little bubbling, oil too cold, turn the heat up a notch and wait 5.

**Oil does not boil. It aint water and visually checking oil to see if its hot is none too accurate. However, if it comes in contact with any kind of water or moisture it will sizzle. If enuf water is inther it will splash out or even explode out of there. Hot oil is nothing to mess with. Be sure the bloomin onion is dry before dipped in batter. Be sure the batter is mixed properly to avoid pockets of water that can cause you a world of hurt. Dont drop any water into the pan to test it. It will spit it back at you with interest. 400 degree oil is instant 2rd degree burn.

**When you lower your bloomin onion, do it with control. Dont plunk or drop it in there and run away. Get a spider web ladle or really big tongs and slowly lower the onion into the hot oil. Let the oil sizzle out the bottoms initial moisture and when it calms down lower the rest in slowly. This will control the vigorous first sizzle and none of the oil escapes the pan.

**when you get the dang thing without having to call 911, all you have to do is watch it turn golden brown. After it does, turn off the heat and gently scoop it out of the pan. Either let it sit on a big mess of paper towels or a wire grill to let excess oil drip out. Serve after 2 minutes.


Forgot to add.

If you keep the temperature of the oil below 400 degress (375 is good enuf for bloomin onions) you can re-use the oil over and over. Thats where the thermometer comes in handy. Oil heated above 400 degress adds a burnt taste to food and should just be thrown out. Run used oil thru a filter every now and again to get leftover impurities out. You can use a sheet or 2 of common paper towels as a makeshift filter.

Need I say you should do this after the oil has cooled down?

Thanks for the advice everyone. I’d just like remind everybody, I wasn’t drinking during the cooking. But, to recap:

Oil does not boil. Got it.
Oil is reusable. I don’t know. My hands still smell like that crap, I’m not sure I want anymore contact than necessary.
Get a thermometer. Check. Well. Maybe later. I’m hell bent on trying again tonight. I’m going to drop little pieces in until they start frying. {psssszzzzzzz!!!}

I think I’ve got some pliers somewhere to drop that bad boy down in there. . .