I want a Big Mac in the comfort of my own home.
Typically, on the rare occasions that I enjoy this glorious treat, it is consumed behind the wheel of my parked car, as this is the one fast food sandwich that presents solemn issues to consume while driving. I mean, you can, but you’ll be finding shredded lettuce for months, in everything from the cup holder to the cigarette lighter. Plus, there is a certain satisfaction to gripping the Big Mac with two hands, preferably in a relaxed fashion rather than navigating through traffic while using your knees to manipulate the wheel.
Today, however, in the middle of yet another cold and fucked up winter day, I decided that I was going to relish a Big Mac in front of my TV, preferably while watching a documentary about a notable historical figure who has achieved things of equal importance to what I was about to do in his/her lifetime. Of course, if I pick one up at the drive thru and bring it home, it will be tepid at best, so I knew I needed to take matters into my own hands here.
Most people’s first assumption would be that I have plans to somehow augment the ingredients of the Big Mac, in an effort to show that I can do it better when I use grass-fed beef, aged cheddar, bibb lettuce, etc. The primary concern I have with that method is that it would involve fixing something that isn’t broken, which is a colossal waste of time, every time. I call it the “Green bean casserole syndrome.”
No, I’m going straight to Shaw’s Supermarket to procure my ingredients, because there’s nothing that’s supposed to be “farm-fresh” about a Big Mac. I momentarily consider adding fries to the menu, but the thought of cleaning out the fucking fryolator puts that idea to rest. Seriously, EVERY time I use the home fryer it sits on the counter for weeks, taking up space, until I finally decide to go through the awkward and messy process of dealing with it’s contents. Plus, to be honest, you’re not going to achieve the same flavor of McDonald’s fries at home, it just won’t happen; even if you re-incorporate the beef tallow that was corrupting oblivious would-be vegetarians for decades, you won’t be able to get it exactly right.
“Two All-Beef Patties”
Historically, McDonald’s has been repeatedly questioned on this statement, fielding accusations involving everything from ant thoraxes to used syringes. In this case, I give them the benefit of the doubt, opting for 80% lean beef from what I presume were manic-depressive cows. I plan on seasoning the shit out of them, and pressing them thin, using a mold to shape them because I want perfect little circles.
It is widely assumed that Mac sauce is just Thousand-Island dressing, but upon doing a bit of research I find it more accurate to make a boosted-up version of French dressing. I start with a bottle from Wishbone (I sat in the aisle for awhile contemplating between that and Ken’s), and add Heinz sweet pickle relish, minced onion, white vinegar, sugar, salt, and, my only concession to the fast food rule, Kewpie mayonnaise. This is because I don’t allow lesser forms of mayo into my house, and I’m not about to start now. I make this a bit in advance to let the flavors properly meld.
Iceberg – the most nutritionally devoid vegetable known to man – is the ONLY way to roll here, shredded up finely. It’s the only lettuce that will actually get soggy in a salad spinner, making it even easier to prepare. What’s great is that I get to enjoy a “White American Salad,” prior to cooking, featuring iceberg and the leftover French dressing. Of course, Hidden Valley Ranch would be preferable, but this will do in a pinch. I just wish I had some warm Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to go with it..
Holy fucking Christ, there is some chemical in Kraft Singles that makes them absolutely irresistible, and though the package boasts “No artificial flavors,” there is something man-made in there. I even like peeling back the plastic, and the mildly rubbery texture of the cheese. In this case, I have opted for the “Orange American” varietal. I have also already had three of them, prior to cooking.
I’ll be honest; I don’t eat jarred pickles very often so I have no fucking idea about the difference between Vlassic, Cain’s, etc. In the end, my aversion to babies makes me steer clear of one based solely on it’s association with storks, so I go with the Cain’s bread and butter pickle chips. I don’t even really like the pickles that much on the Big Mac, but I’m a slave to authenticity here. Wait, I just used the word “Authenticity” in regards to food. I hate myself. Where are my pills?
I used to live with one of my best friends, Jon Dietz, who was an absolute Nazi about finely dicing onions. Though aesthetically pleasing, I normally don’t take the time to mince them super fine, but in this case, it’s important. This is for you, Dietz.
“On A Sesame Seed Bun”
I love how Supermarkets have bakeries, and then they have the “bakery aisle.” To me, that aisle smells like pure nostalgia, an amalgamation of scents from Thomas’s, JJ Nissan, Freihoffer’s, Country Kitchen, and the like, that kind of bread that can ONLY come from a factory, untouched by human hands. There are three options for sesame seed hamburger buns, and I go with the “Koffee Kitchen” or some shit like that, based entirely on the fact that they come in packages of 4 buns instead of 24. I only need two, and the rest will just slowly become a mold farm on top of my microwave over the coming weeks before I finally acknowledge them and throw them away.
Mac Attacks Not Heart Attacks
Ok, time to get this bitch started.
I get some butter melting in the pan to toast the buns – I know you’re technically supposed to trim the middle bun a bit, but I decide to compensate by just pressing both sides on the griddle.
Once the buns are toasted, the patties go into the hot pan. I really want them thin so I do like you aren’t supposed to do and press the fucking things down, speeding up the cooking process. After about two minutes on each side, they are sufficiently browned and good to go.
First the bottom bun, then sauce, then onions, lettuce, and Kraft single before the first patty goes down. Then my buttery middle bun, more sauce, onion, lettuce, and pickles before the last patty piles on and I crown it. It is slightly bigger than the McDonald’s version, largely due to the size of the burgers, but it looks quite pretty.
How Does It Taste?
Pretty spot on. In the original you taste more of the toppings, but in my version, for better or for worse, the burger flavor comes through more. My decision to aggressively salt the meat pays off, because if you’re going to cook the shit out of something it better be seasoned well. True to form, my version would be damn near impossible to eat with one hand, while driving. I think the biggest difference is that real Big Macs have a certain soft and mushy quality, even the beef, that I simply have no idea how to replicate, yet I weirdly enjoy…
What Do I Drink With It?
This is my first time drinking wine with a Big Mac, so I go for something middle of the road in regards to fruit and acidity, in this case the Altesino Rosso from Tuscany. I mean, the Big Mac is practically custom designed to pair with sugary drinks that are terrible for you, so whatever you choose will no doubt be an improvement, and honestly I plan on annihilating the burger before I’m even 1 glass down anyway so…
What Did I Watch?
There is a series on Netflix called “The Men That Built America,” which chronicles the exploits of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford. Though it’s actually quite interesting, it recaps the entire 1.5 hour episode about 8 times throughout each one, presumably to accommodate what would have been the commercial break. The upside to this is that the repetition, while extremely frustrating, is quite useful in retaining historical facts.
Worth the McEffort?
Yeah, just to say you did it. Plus now I have enough Heinz sweet relish and Cain’s bread and butter pickles to last me for the next decade, so there’s that.
So a few days later, upon a friend’s request, I made the Mac again, and I have to say it came out twice as good for two reasons:
First, for the burger patties, I started with 2-3 ounce balls of meat, which I smashed down with a metal spatula in a red hot cast iron pan, flipping after 45 seconds, seasoning, and pressing down again. This not only added char, but the texture was much more true to form.
Second, the Big Mac sauce got even better over three days of letting the flavors come together.