I have always liked deep fried battered onion rings. Something about the crisp fried outer coating that reveals a soft, squishy, sweet onion slice hiding within. It’s a classic combination that always gets my salivary glands going. But I had never heard of a “blooming onion” and when we spotted several spectacular looking plates of what appeared to be specially cut, battered and deep-fried onions, we traced our way to the booth that was selling them at the Annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival.
They start with these huge, scarily uniform white onions, possibly vidalias, but more likely just extra large and consistently sized yellow/white onions that they kept pulling out of huge wholesale sacks. They remove the outer layers of skin, and trim the root end, taking care to leave as much of that end of the onion intact, so that the sliced onion doesn’t completely separate. Then a special cutting machine is used to slice the onion from the top, making what are now almost “petals” of a large flower, such as a large chrysanthemum, perhaps.
Some care is needed to ensure that the onions are properly sliced… meaning deep enough cuts but not too deep that the onion falls apart. There were several onions that failed the cut, and were set aside for other purposes, I gathered.
The specially cut onions were then dipped into a batter and coated with cornmeal and carefully placed into a deep fryer filled with hot vegetable oil. After several minutes, just as they started to turn golden brown, they were extracted and piled onto a plate, and some mayonnaise based dipping sauces were provided. I prefer ketchup, however.
They tasted very similar to onion rings, but just a different shape. And frankly, I have no idea how any one person could eat such a huge serving of friend onions… This portion could easily have served 4 people!