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Burger Sutra: The Art of Homemade Fast-Food

By Molly Martin

Everyone has a special place for that McBurger in his or her heart—that grease has a way of sticking around for a while. But have you ever wondered if there’s something better out there? Something with less baggage and a lot more personality? I’ve got some tips to whip up your own “fast-food” favorites at home, with little-to-no cooking commitment.

  • The key to this relationship is good, crispy French fries. Coat your fresh-cut potatoes with a few tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle on some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake in a hot oven (450 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30-45 minutes. If you are feeling bored, spice them up with a dash of chili pepper as soon as the fries are done.

  • Next up, make sure you keep your burgers thin to attain the true fast food experience. Try switching out the cheap ground-chuck for something with less fat content (10% fat is a good compromise, in dollars and in health benefits). For a new twist, mix in some chopped onions and chipotle sauce before you grill. Add a little arugula and a slice of tomato, and you’ve got a cultured burger that you could even take home to mom.

  • OK, repeat after me, “I will not settle for boring buns!” Brush your buns with a little olive oil (we’re talking baked goods, people, not your goods) and place them on the grill, burger-side down. While they are toasting up, cut two cloves of garlic in half. Once the buns are crisp, take them off the grill and rub the garlic halves on the toasted edge. Best. Garlic. Buns. Ever.

  • If you feel that chicken fingers lack a certain je ne sais quoi for you, it's time to kick things up a notch. Give your fresh chicken tenderloins a dip in egg wash (an egg beaten with a little milk), then coat them with some dry bread crumbs mixed with a little salt, pepper, and a packet of store-bought spaghetti seasoning. Place a baking rack on a cookie sheet, and bake for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or until juices run clear), turning once. They are delicious on their own, but don’t forget to mix up some dipping sauce.

  • Last but not least, tacos: still super cheap at home, but with less mystery meat. Switch the ground beef for ground turkey (cheaper, healthier, still delicious). Brown the meat in a skillet, then add a cup of water and two tablespoons of cumin and one tablespoon of chili powder. Warm your taco shells in the toaster oven, then add some cheese, a little sour cream, and all those little packets of “Fire” sauce you stole from Taco Bell (you cheater!).

For more fast food tips, search for specialty cookbooks or do a little experimenting on your own… just don’t tell your girlfriend.

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