My husband lived in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn when we started dating, and when I would get into town late on Friday evenings after a long, often harrowing bus ride from Boston, I was usually both starving and in need of a drink. Sometimes we stayed in Manhattan, dining in Chinatown or somewhere close to where the bus dropped me off before grabbing a cab to his apartment, but more often than not we’d get right on the F train, drop my things at his place, and head over to the Park Slope Ale House.
Back then the sidewalks rolled up rather early in that neighborhood, but the Ale House was always there for us. It had reliably good food, a charming staff, and a great selection of beers on tap, but one of our favorite things about the pub was the onion rings. A good onion ring is a rare thing, in my experience – too often they’re thick and overly breaded, or they’re sodden with grease and just plain unpleasant to eat. These were different, thin, light and crisp, and we could put away an entire basket at embarrassing speed.
It occurred to me one day that it would be fairly easy to reproduce a version of those onion rings – there was no batter to contend with, and since the rings were cut thin, they’d cook quickly without soaking up too much oil. To ensure that they’d stay extra crisp, I wanted to leach out some of the excess moisture from the onions, and that was where the Sriracha marinade came in. It worked brilliantly, imparting a little bit of heat to the rings, and leaving them as light, crispy and flavorful as I’d hoped they’d be.
When I make these for the two of us, I fry them right before serving, but if you’re making enough for a crowd, they keep well on a rack-lined baking sheet in a low oven until you’re ready to serve them. If you want even more kick, add a little cayenne or ground chipotle to your seasoned flour. —lastnightsdinner
medium-to-large red onion
tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Sriracha or other hot chile sauce
peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
unbleached all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper
Optional: cayenne pepper or ground chipotle powder, to taste
Peel the onion and slice it into thin rings. Separate the rings and place them in a large bowl, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and add the chile sauce. Toss until the onion rings are well coated, and set them aside for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft and have released much of their liquid.
Pour oil into a pot to a depth of 1.5 to 2 inches, and heat to 375 degrees F. Place the flour, the remaining teaspoon of Kosher salt, the pepper, and the chile powder if using, in a bowl or zip-top bag. Take a handful of onions from the Sriracha marinade, gently squeezing out the moisture with your hands, and add them to the flour. Toss to coat, shake off the excess flour, and carefully lower the onions into the hot oil using a spider or slotted spoon. Fry the onions in batches until they are crisp and golden. Remove the onion rings and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain, sprinkling a bit of flaky salt on top of each batch as you remove them.