The solution to Wordle on Saturday was onion. How could we not got to the fair and get a blooming one? Of course, I have an alternative.
We try to eat healthy most of the time. However, when the fair opens, all bets are off the table and I plan my appetite around the sharing of a big fat blooming onion, one of my favorite cheat foods.
A day at the fair
Somehow, in this summer of low temperatures and rain, rain, rain, we had a few beautiful days this weekend, and so off we went with our daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter to the Champlain Valley Fair, one of the best fairs and biggest in Vermont. It has all the usual agricultural and craft and quilt competitions, displays of farm machinery and RVs, show ponies, butterflies, music, concerts, three-ring circus-like acts, including trapeze, pig races, magicians, tugs of war, games of chance, a fun house, a haunted house, and lots of other midway attractions of scary rides, ventriloquists, vendors, artists, jugglers, and everything else to overload the senses. I watched little chickens hatch, five pigs race for a batch of corn, petted a horse, while all the time successfully avoiding the scariest of rides.
No one can avoid the food, the smells are everywhere
And then there’s the food! Every possible fried food and indulgence tempted the crowd including fried Oreos, cheesecake, and pickles, onion rings, nachos, wings, (gourmet) grilled cheese, tacos, fries, hotdogs, hamburgers, egg rolls, curries, and even a few salads along the way! Top it all off with some Vermont Maple Creemees, and you are all set.
The fair is not the place to count calories
Enter, the blooming onions. In case you haven’t seen one, it’s a very large onion, scored to open up into petals when plunged in super-hot oil where the batter gets golden brown, and the onion softens and sweetens. Then, it is sprinkled with salt and served up with a spicy mayonnaise. It’s pretty much the perfect decadent fair food and even surpasses my onion ring cravings. If someone could eat a whole blooming onion, and I only know one person (who shall remain unnamed) who can do so, it would clock in close to 2,000 calories, is probably loaded with every kind of bad fat, so I’m not even going to mention the fat grams. But once in blue moon, a few nibbles are divine!
Why make them at home?
Of course, you can make these at home. Find the biggest onion possible, use about a gallon of grease, batter them up, and hope for the best. But why not just leave it to the fair cooks.
However, you can have the taste of the fair without clogging your arteries! No, they are not by any means an exact match, but they are delicious and have the flavor of the fair, and that is what counts.
Start with medium onions, about six ounces each. We’re going to bake them rather than fry, and add a bit of Parmesan and thyme just to increase the flavor lost from the omission of all that fat. I’ve made these for years, and they are always well received.
One entire onion redux clocks in at 198 calories, 18 carbs, 2 grams of saturated fat, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and calcium. Not a bad swap!
Now, the Tunbridge World’s Fair is next week, anyone up for it?
Heavenly Baked Blooming Onions with Spicy Dipping Sauce
- 4 medium onions, 6 ounces or so each
- 4 tsp. vegan butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan, or vegan alternative
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp. panko or fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp. Paprika or smoked paprika
- ½ cup vegan or regular mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp. sriracha sauce
- 1 tbsp. prepared horseradish
- 1 tsp. unfiltered honey
- Squeeze of lemon
Prepare the onions: Remove outer dead layers from the onions. Cut off the top of the onion so a good deal of the onion is exposed, but leave the root end in-tact, trimming only the slightest bit so they will sit straight. Cut “cross hatch” marks on top of onion, through two thirds of onion, but be careful not to cut to the bottom; you do not want the onion to separate and fall apart before cooking. If you place wooden chopsticks on the sides of the onion, or cradle it in the bowl of a deep wooden spoon, it will act as a guard when you slice, preventing you from accidentally slicing all the way through.
Place them in an oiled casserole dish and tent with foil.
Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes to loosen them up. The petals will start to relax.
While the onions are cooking, combine the olive oil, Parmesan, bread crumbs, thyme, and paprika and set aside.
Remove them from the oven, take off the foil, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Season with some salt and pepper and a tsp. of butter on each. The butter should immediately melt into the onion. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the onions.
. Return to the oven for at least 30 minutes more, or until top is nicely browned and onions have softened and “bloomed” the petals separating into a lovely little flower! You should be able to pull out the petals easily. If not, put them back in the oven for a bit.
For a dinner party: Prepare ahead of time and cook through the first bake; they take only a minute to pop in the oven, and you can visit with your guests while they are transformed in your hot oven.
Make a quick dipping sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients.
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