Has it been that long?
Twelve years ago. The last time I stepped foot into a McDonald’s. At least I think – it’s not like it was momentous enough to recall dates and times. But surely my oreo/ramen/milkshake regimen of freshman year included a nugget or two from Mickey D’s. Probably some fries too slopped in gooey ketchup.
I’m kind of scared of fast food now. I think I have a right to be. I mean, they put beef in french fries. Seriously. Beef, in French fries. But Big Macs at home, with fresh, local organic ingredients – that’s a cow of a different color. And what could be better than having a party and sharing them with friends?
This is not a light bulb that suddenly turned on in my head. I would love to take credit for the ingenious Big Mac Attack party, but it came from friends Shawn and Jeremy, while we shared a big pot of my slow-cooked Bolognese.
The allure of the infamous Big Mac lies in the special sauce. That creamy, tangy, oddly hued sauce slathered between two hunks of meat, with lettuce, pickles and American cheese.
To mimic the sauce, I made an olive oil aioli and combined it with homemade French dressing and organic shallots from La Tercera Farms. My thinly sliced pickles were from Happy Girl Farms, and the ground chuck was Niman Ranch. The cheese was a difficult match, but mild cheddar proved to be a shoo-in for American, and Clover’s organic was a perfect match. I admit, I did not make the buns, though they were locally baked and I painted on the sesame seeds with an egg wash.
Hosting a Big Mac party is substantially easier than a traditional dinner party. Set out the shredded lettuce, sliced pickles, special sauce, buns and ketchup, and let your guests build their own Big Macs. Use a mandolin to slice up some fries, and roast them at 500F instead of frying. Put out a salad too for some balance (try spinach, apples, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, homemade vinaigrette). Serve with cold Belgian beer.
The best part? You are 100% sure there is no beef in your fries. At least you should be…
Homemade Big Macs
2 pounds Niman Ranch ground chuck or other high-quality beef. (Or, go all the way and grind your own meat. Try using Brisket.)
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
3 fresh pickles, sliced thin
8 hamburger buns
5 ounces organic mild cheddar, sliced thin
1 large shallot, minced
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup portions
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar, separated
1/2 cup organic ketchup (Happy Girl, if you can find it)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sweet relish
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Paprika
In a large bowl, beat together egg yolk, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Take a kitchen towel roll it into the shape of an “O.” Place your bowl on top of the towel – this will prevent it from moving around when whisking the aioli. While whisking, add a few drops of olive oil. Keep whisking, and add a few more drops. And a few more. When your sauce begins to thicken, add olive oil in a very slow stream, whisking constantly. Your arm should hurt at this point. When all of the olive oil is incorporated, taste for salt, and add last teaspoon of lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, whisk together ketchup, sugar, minced shallots, 1 tablespoon sweet relish, 1 tablespoon vinegar, paprika and a pinch of salt. Whisk in ½ cup of olive oil in a slow stream.
Slowly add the French dressing to the aioli. Stir to combine, and taste as you add the dressing – you may need not all of it. I had about 2 tablespoons of the French dressing left over. Garnish with a pinch of paprika on top.
Season your chopped meat with salt, pepper and olive oil and separate into 8 patties. Cook them on the grill for a few minutes per side, adding the cheese at the last minute so it melts.
(disclaimer: I did not cook the burgers on the grill. Why? I turned the gas on, switched the on the ignitor, and my grill caught on fire. I screamed like the girl that I am while Alejandro sprayed it down with the extinguisher. Time for a new grill. I cooked them in a cast iron skillet on the stove.)
Assemble the burger
Start with the bottom bun, add special sauce, shredded romaine, a cheesy burger and a couple of pickles. Stop here or add the second layer… Take the bottom of a second bun and slice it down the middle. This thin piece will be your middle section. Add it to the burger, and again top with special sauce, lettuce and pickles.
Another note, I did not eat the double patty Big Mac, nor did I serve it like that at the party. It’s just too big. Though it looked nice in pictures.
Where I Shopped:
Niman Ranch ground chuck, organic sweet relish, fresh hamburger buns: Star Grocery, Berkeley
Romaine lettuce, shallots: Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Happy Girl pickles and ketchup: Temescal Farmers’ Market
Clover organic mild cheddar: Berkeley Bowl
Organic local eggs: Downtown Oakland Farmers’ Market