Monday, November 26, 2012

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Crispy Moonshine Onion Rings

In Charred & Scruffed, his 2012 book on otherwise new grilling techniques, restaurateur and barbecue enthusiast Adam Perry Lang leverages an old trick — folding liquor into flour-based batter or dough — to yield flaky pastries and batters. After our recent turkey deep-frying, we had plenty of peanut oil around, so I decided to put his recipe for "moonshine" onion rings to the test.

Alcohol in pastries is nothing new. We’ve seen, for instance, that Polish Mardi Gras doughnuts known as paczki are sometimes made with vodka and pie crust recipes using vodka have been floating around for years. It’s not there as a flavoring or to get eaters drunk; vodka can discourage gluten formation in pastries, lending a crisp and flaky texture.

Lang is co-owner of the Original Moonshine brand which is why he specifies it but, as we all know, isn't actual moonshine. Not a value judgement; just a statement of fact. If you have some, use it. If not, you can easily substitute vodka, genuine moonshine, home-distilled neutral spirits, or any one of the lighter "white" whiskeys on the market. You can use mature whiskeys or even brandies — just be aware that they'll impart flavor you may not want in your onion rings.

The verdict? Yep; they are crispy and tasty. Break out the ketchup, malt vinegar, and aioli. Just be sure to eat these little buggers while they're hot because even when they're crispy, cold onion rings are best left for dogs and stoners.
Crispy Moonshine Onion Rings 
8 cups peanut oil
3 large Spanish onions cut into ½”-thick slices and separated into rings
1 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
plus more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons freshly ground
black pepper

4 large egg whites
1 c Original Moonshine, clear corn whiskey, or vodka
2 c cornstarch
2 tsp sea or kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
About 4 cups panko crumbs

Heat the oil to 350°F in an 8-quart pot. Meanwhile, put the onions in a large bowl and pour the milk over them to moisten them; drain.
Put the flour in a large sealable plastic bag, add the salt and pepper, and shake to mix. Working in batches, add the drained onion slices to the flour, seal the bag, and shake vigorously to coat the slices, then spread on a baking sheet.
For the batter, whip the egg whites to soft peaks in a large bowl. Fold in the moonshine. Sift the cornstarch, salt, black pepper, and cayenne over the egg whites and fold in gently.
Spread the panko crumbs evenly on a baking sheet. Line another baking sheet with paper towels. 
Working in batches, add the onion rings to the batter, then, one at a time, toss onto the panko crumbs and flip over to coat with crumbs; repeat until you have filled the baking sheet with a generously spaced layer of onions. 
One by one, drop the coated onions into the hot oil, without crowding, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon, transfer to the lined baking sheet to drain briefly, and sprinkle with salt, then transfer to a mesh cooling rack (this will prevent the onion rings from becoming soggy). Repeat with the remaining onion rings and serve.

Adam Perry Lang (2012)
Charred & Scruffed: Bold New Techniques for Explosive Flavor on and off the Grill
280 pages (paperback)
ISBN: 1579654657

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