Onion rings are one of those things that I crave fairly regularly, so I love the idea of making a healthier version for myself at home. This recipe uses a combination of crushed cornflakes and panko breadcrumbs to achieve a satisfyingly crunchy coating, and the buttermilk and cayenne in the batter make for a pretty spot-on onion ring flavor. 
Even though I'm a big fan of ketchup, I felt like homemade onion rings warranted a slightly more inventive sidekick, so I mixed together some of my favorite flavors to make a tangy, sweet balsamic-dijon sauce I kind of can't wait to find a bunch of other uses for.

baked onion rings with balsamic-dijon dipping sauce
makes about 4 servings

For onion rings
2-4 vidalia onions
2 cups corn flakes, crushed to fine crumbs (pulse in food processor or simply crush them by hand in a plastic storage bag)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil spray

For balsamic-dijon dipping sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Liberally spray two baking sheets with canola oil and set aside. Slice onions into 1/2 inch rings (save inner rings to use for something else - omelet, anyone?). In a large bowl, mix together corn flakes and breadcrumbs. In another bowl, whisk together flour, buttermilk, egg, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper. 

With dry hands, work in batches, dipping onion rings into the wet mixture first and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Be careful not to let the excess wet batter drip into the breadcrumb mixture, or the crumbs will stop sticking to the onions! Lay coated onion rings on baking sheets and spray with cooking spray. Don't skimp on the oil here - it's what will help the onion rings brown in the oven, and they'll much healthier than your average deep-fried onion rings.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown, flipping the onions about halfway through the baking process. While the onions are in the oven, mix together the vinegar, mustard, honey and salt. You might have to adjust the measurements a bit to get the desired texture and flavor (add extra mustard and/or honey if the sauce is too thin, add extra vinegar if it's too thick). 

These onion rings are best served really hot out of the oven, preferably with the tangy dipping sauce.
-S

 


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