By Joni Hoke
#TBT. It’s Throwback Thursday, or Trashy Burger Thursday….
I try to eat well – the whole 80/20 thing. I buy a couple bags of fresh spinach and a couple pounds of sweet potatoes per week. Steel-cut oatmeal, cooked in tea. Wild-caught salmon. Grass-fed beef. Roasted broccoli. But recently, I got the hankering for a Big Mac.
I sketchily skulked around the grocery store looking for what I’d need: beef patties (frozen, thin sliders in a tube bag from, shall we say, a major retailer; they purported to be a great value), Thousand Island dressing, PRE-shredded lettuce – a nod to my gal Sandra Lee (it’s not pre-shredded, Aunt Sandy; it’s just shredded) – ahem-erican “cheese,” pickles (“Fast Food Chips,” to be precise), minced onion and, of course, sesame-seed buns. Those seeds are the most nutritious element of this dish. And how can you not have fries? Fast-Food Fries, of course, courtesy of Ore-Ida.
I assembled my lurid ingredients and dashed off a quick Facebook post. My friends seemed to be….into it. And once the burgers were made, so was I. Yum. It tasted like sin.
Names pixelated to protect the guilty.
I didn’t photograph the bag of fries, but all told, not one but TWO of my ingredients actually had “fast food” right in the title.
Having scratched that itch, I went back to the vegetable frittatas and mashed cauliflower and Greek-yogurt chicken salad on whole-wheat pitas that are my norm. But one day, the siren song of the greasy flat-top lured me in again, and I pined for my all-time favorite McDonald’s menu item: the Cheddar Melt.
The Cheddar Melt, rest its bovine soul, was an addictive blend of a quarter-pound patty, grilled onions and REAL cheddar cheese sauce. You know it’s fancy when it’s REAL, and when it’s served on a light rye bun. Oh, yeah. And you know it’s special when it’s available for a limited time only, like the McRib….except the Cheddar Melt never came back. The last were sold in this country in 2014, but only in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (WTF? Had I known, I’d have made a road trip.) Before that, it hadn’t been around since 2004, and even then, only briefly.
Thirty percent more fries, yo.
Oddly, the Cheddar Melt DOES still exist on Earth – in Brazil – and it’s all the rage there, under the name Cheddar McMelt.
So let’s Go for the Bold. Let’s make one of these bad boys.
I tried using grass-fed beef patties, sliced horizontally while still partially frozen, but it’s no use. You’ve gotta go for that tube of frozen sliders from that one place. Cook them from frozen, on a griddle pan, covered with nonstick foil and weighted with a heavy skillet, so they cook up flat and quick.
And if I really cared, I could’ve made a cheddar sauce with Wondra flour and butter and milk and cheese, but let’s not kid ourselves – this is a McDonald’s copycat. I went for the jarred Prego.
The onions I did slice myself and sautée, for a long time, in a little oil, then glazed them with teriyaki sauce.
I couldn’t find rye buns, so I did make one healthful concession: sprouted rye bread from Trader Joe’s.
Ketchup packets, for authenticity.
With an actual bun and 30 percent more fries, this would be a dead ringer for that tasty, trashy underappreciated throwback. Being bad tastes pretty good. But maybe I should whip up a McSalad Shaker next time.
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Got a favorite guilty pleasure or copycat recipe? Drop JL a note at our inbox, email@example.com.