Whether you call it a bloomin’ onion, an awesome blossom or a Texas rose, a battered-and-fried whole onion is American excess at its finest. It’s also a natural fit at Westwood, the San Francisco restaurant, bar and venue with deer antlers hanging on the walls and a mechanical bull centerpiece.
Here, Chef Jesus Dominguez bathes a whole onion in buttermilk and coats it in seasoned flour before sending it on a trip through the deep fryer. The allium emerges sporting crisp, flavorful petals just begging to be dipped in ranch, honey mustard or blue cheese dressing. Or all three. According to Dominguez, diners at Westwood frequently ask him how they can recreate this appetizer at home.
“It’s not that simple to execute if you don’t have the skills and the proper equipment,” says the former sous chef of two-Michelin-starred Taj Campton Place. “But it’s definitely doable for someone that likes a good fried onion blossom!”
Set yourself up for success by starting with a yellow onion, which Dominguez prefers not just for its balanced flavor, which only gets sweeter when cooked, but for its potential to grow frankly massive in size. Indeed, according to Dominguez, yellow onions are the only ones that can grow large enough for an iteration of this dish that can serve two or more people. While you won’t need the 18-pound one that smashed the former Guinness World Record for onion size, it should be easy enough to find a yellow onion softball clocking in at around 12 ounces.
Once you’ve sourced your onion, it’s time to slice it up so that it blooms when fried. While Dominguez notes that he relies on a special onion slicer to get the job done at Westwood, if you don’t want to invest $600 in such a tool, this process is easy enough to carry out with a sharp chef’s knife. Start by removing the top end of the onion, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion and quarter it from tip to just above the root, then rotate and slice once more into eighths, taking care not to slice too far and risk the onion coming apart in the fryer.
“I like to say it’s almost like cutting a cake,” Dominguez says of the ideal technique.
He also offers one last insider tip: Getting all your slicing done the night before allows the onion time to render its moisture. That way, he explains, once breaded, the onion “maintains the perfect consistency”: crisp, crunchy and oh-so satisfying.
Westwood’s Fried Onion Blossom
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 gallon vegetable oil
- 2 qt. buttermilk
- 4 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
- 3 Tbsp. ground pepper, divided
- 1 lb. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. granulated onion
- 2 Tbsp. granulated garlic
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. Old Bay
- 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- The night before, cut off the top of the onion and peel it, leaving the root intact. Cut it into eighths without cutting all the way through the root. Chill overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oil to 325º F. Season the buttermilk with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 2 tablespoons ground pepper. Mix the remaining dry ingredients and spices together to create the seasoned flour.
- Immerse the onion in the buttermilk until all of the layers are coated. Then cover the onion in the seasoned flour, ensuring each of the petals of the onion blossom are nicely coated with the mixture.
- Carefully drop the breaded onion into the oil, and let the batter set before touching or moving the onion. Fry for 8-10 minutes, then remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with the dipping sauce of your choice.
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