I made a home-schooling-related volcano before breakfast, so how hard can it be to make a Big Mac for lunch? McDonald's is the latest light in our once familiar world to go dark, and I've been asked to try to re-create its most famous product using widely available ingredients.
So where do you start? Like everything else, the answer lies on the internet. It’s in the shape of Dan Coudreat, an executive chef with McDonald’s with nice hands and sad eyes. Dan’s on YouTube in an all-brown kitchen with questionable ruched curtains on the window.
In truth the only thing you need to know to re-create a Big Mac, or the Don’t Panic It’s a Global Pandemic Mac, at home is how to make the sauce. It’s all in the sauce. Dan’s tutorial has racked up 6.7 million hits.
Your device will be covered in sauce by the end of it, because he rattles through it in less than two and a half minutes, and the exact sequence of what goes where refuses to stay in my brain.
“Slow down, Dan,” I beg, midway through, only not as politely. A deadline looms. Where Dan has off-camera minions to buff his nails and hand him implements I have the “home-schooleds”, whose help ended with the YouTube research phase.
My local Lidl has everything I need except a green “sweet pickle relish”, which I’ll substitute with a Mexican salsa verde with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. You need the sugar.
The meat, iceberg lettuce, onion and baps come to a cost of €10.01, with enough organic (give me that, at least) beef mince for six “patties”, as we shall henceforth be calling the burgers.
Dan is vague on the quantities but shows us a bowl with the three main components. So I put a palm-size squirt of mayonnaise with a slightly smaller squirt of yellow mustard and about two teaspoons of the sweetened relish.
There’s a teaspoon of garlic powder and sweet paprika, which turns the whole thing a yellowy salmony pink colour that’s beginning to look familiar. Ah, yes, a buried memory of how the sauce and the Styrofoam box used to meld to the same colour and consistency.
Luckily, the volcano has not consumed all the vinegar. A tablespoon gets added, and then comes a taste test and a full Proustian light bulb. It’s all there. Big Macness in a sauce.
The other things I learn from Dan?
1. Make my patties in my largest scone cutter, pressing the meat down to that thin fry-in-a-minute consistency.
2. The jargon: the bottom bun is the heel, the middle is the club.
3. The sequence (although this nearly breaks me). Bread, sauce, onions (freshly chopped, raw) lettuce (also chopped), cheese slice, pattie, bread (the club), more sauce, onions, lettuce, precisely TWO pickles, second pattie, top bun.
The oldest teenager is called upon to adjudicate. “The lettuce is too fresh, but yeah that’s a Big Mac.” A light goes on in the darkness.
It was all so quick that there’s even time to do a little stalkery research on Dan. He left McDonald’s in 2018. He was, one trade magazine said, responsible for the company’s improved salads and smoothies.
Maybe the Big Mac wasn’t close to his heart. The screen goes dark as he bites into his homemade burger. We don’t see him swallow.
THE DON’T PANIC IT’S A GLOBAL PANDEMIC MAC
Makes three, with extra sauce
1tbsp yellow mustard
3tsp of any sweet green relish
1tsp sweet paprika
1tsp garlic powder
1tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 small white onion
1 iceberg lettuce
380g minced beef
Pack of burger buns
1. First, chop the onion and iceberg finely and set aside. Using a metal ring or cookie cutter, press the raw meat into six thin patties.
2. Slice a thin dome layer off the top of a burger bap to make the middle (club) layer. Toast it on both sides on a dry pan. Toast another full bap at the same time.
3. Add olive oil to a hot cast-iron pan and fry your patties. Season with salt and pepper as they brown evenly.
4. Assemble your burger. Start with the bottom bun. Spread a dessertspoon of sauce, a pinch of onions, a piece of cheese, hot pattie, second bread (club) layer, more sauce (I think – it all gets a little non-disclosurey here) iceberg, TWO slices of pickle, more beef and the top layer of bun.
5. Now have yourself a nice (nothing to see here, it’s all normal) day.