A few months ago I was thumbing through some fancy food magazine, and saw the onion rings I grew up on. In a beautifully dim lit photo, there they were, just as my mother, my grandmother, and other family members and friends use to make them. They were very skinny, very lightly breaded, and a ton were mounded up on a plate. The heading of the recipe said “tobacco onion rings.” I went and researched the phrase, tobacco onion rings, something I had never heard of before, and saw some chef in the eighties was credited with “inventing” them. From what I read, he used the term tobacco to describe them because they resemble tobacco leaves. After a little more research, it seems the only difference in these modern tobacco onion rings and the recipe I am familiar with is the addition of cayenne pepper and using a yellow and red onion instead of 2 yellow onions.
Then last month while on vacation, I spotted on the menu in Embers, Kobe beef sliders topped with tobacco onion rings. What a brilliant idea to put these thin onion rings on burgers. I love regular fried onions with burgers, but they’re just too thick to really fit in the burger.
I’ve made these several times since we got back and they are just too good. I parried them with an apricot chipotle aioli, a recipe fashioned after the aioli served on the sliders at Embers. You can skip the aioli all together, but it’s a nice touch to make these little sliders really stand out.
Tobacco Onion Ring Sliders with Apricot Chipotle Aioli Recipe
2 medium sweet yellow onions (or 1 red and 1 yellow), sliced very thinly and rings separated
1 cup flour
grill seasoning about 1 tablespoon for onions, and to taste on burgers
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 lbs ground chuck or ground sirloin
water rolls, or other slider sized rolls
lettuce and tomato
Apricot Chipotle Aioli
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 teaspoon chipotle peppers and sauce
1. Form slider sized patties with ground meat. Season with grill seasoning. Preheat grill or skillet. Cook slider burgers until desired temperature, medium rare, medium, medium well, or well-done.
2. In a separate skillet or deep fryer add cooking oil. Preheat oil to 350 degrees. Slice and separate onion rings. Add then to a large bowl. Add grill seasoning and toss well. Add cayenne pepper if using. Then add flour and toss until well covered. Deep fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels.
3. For aioli, mix all ingredients well in a small bowl, and serve with sliders.