Reinventing The Big Mac: From Cooked By Machine To Haute Cuisine

Heston style banquets are all well and good on TV, but in reality who's going to stretch to nouvelle cuisine when it takes a couple of seconds to knock up the heart attack inducing 'Four Cheese McCasserole'?
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Heston style banquets are all well and good on TV, but in reality who's going to stretch to nouvelle cuisine when it takes a couple of seconds to knock up the heart attack inducing 'Four Cheese McCasserole'?

Fanny Craddock had the right idea. Despite her imperious tone and supercilious air, the ball-gowned battle-axe just wanted to make us better cooks. Her delusions of sophistication came from her presentation technique, rather than the raw materials she used.

Always reminding audiences that "this is perfectly economical" and "this won't stretch your purse", she proved that giving your dish a French name and knowing your way around a piping bag, was all you needed to dine like your maiden-name was Middleton.

These days, the world of the TV chef is a million miles away from Fanny's formica fortress. Sure, there's an enjoyably aspirational air to the dishes created by Heston, Nigella and Hugh, but how realistic are they really?

For a generation weaned on Mini-Kievs and Findus Crispy Pancakes, a larder stuffed with cooking essentials like cubed pancetta and dried porcini mushrooms is about as likely as Katie Price ever suffering from writer's cramp. As a consequence, finding the necessary ingredients for half their recipes becomes an epic odyssey that would have Jason turning the Argo round and heading for the nearest Wetherspoons.

When you can pick up two thirds of your daily calorific intake in under a minute and still have change out of a fiver, who wants to piss about rinsing the grit off the spinach?

It's easy to blame the inexorable rise of fast food restaurants for our lack of ambition when it comes to the culinary arts. When you can pick up two thirds of your daily calorific intake in under a minute and still have change out of a fiver, who wants to piss about rinsing the grit off the spinach? It's not just the effort involved either - over the years we've developed a taste for garbage that's pretty hard to shift.

Maybe that's what led The Grid to brief four of Toronto's top chefs to create a five-star dish using only the ingredients of a Big Mac meal. That's a burger, fries, Coca-Cola and as many pots of condiment as they could carry - the only other permissible ingredients were oil and water. The results were, as you might imagine, unconventional.

If you like Italian, you might be interested in a smoked mortadella made from congealed hamburger patties, served with crostini, mostarda and french-fry nodini. Or how about potato-starch spaghetti with a burger and ketchup bolognese? You could even have it with authentic poor-man's parmesan, as Chef Craig Harding explains, “In Italy, when you can’t afford cheese, you would actually use bread instead.”

The dishes certainly look the part, although I'm not convinced that they'd be much fun to eat. Even with his cast-iron constitution, the burger and barbeque samosa, slathered in a cheese-slice sauce, could make Bear Grylls shit himself in the woods.

If you're going to apply your love of junk food to a fledgeling interest in home cooking, it's probably best to start simple. So thank heavens for the genius who invented the 'Four Cheese McCasserole' - the most fun you can have with forty Chicken McNuggets, honey, bacon, cheese and a beer-based pancake batter. It's so easy, even a child can make it. Assuming they don't plan to live beyond puberty.

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