Fast Food Perfection


I was shocked to discover this last week how many among my family, friends and colleagues have never had a McGriddle from McDonalds.  Here I was, innocently going through life assuming that everybody appreciated this lovely little concoction as much as I, only to find out that there are many who didn't even know what I was talking about.  And now, because of these conversations I've had (more on these conversations later) I feel a moral responsibility to inform the world about the unparalleled goodness that is a McDonalds McGriddle breakfast sandwich.

While the concept seems pretty simple (basically a McMuffin breakfast sandwich, but with pancakes instead of the muffin) the unexpected synergy that comes from the combination and the delight that you feel when you realize that the pancakes have maple syrup cooked right in makes for a fantastic experience.  Let's be honest, who doesn't love to eat a big pancake breakfast with bacon and eggs, especially when the syrup takes over your plate and sweetens everything up.  The McGriddle is sort of like the Turkey dinner gum from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (remember, Violet Beauregard turns into a blueberry in her haste to be the first to try it).  Anyway, the magical McGriddle is like a whole pancake breakfast wrapped up in a little sandwich.  You can get several combinations, but I am partial to the sausage, egg and cheese variety.

Now, back to my recent conversations.  I decided one morning as I drove to work enjoying some McGriddle goodness that I simply had to discover how to make a McGriddle myself.  I would eat them every morning if I could (and if my heart wouldn't explode within a couple months) but they aren't cheap, so I decided I would figure out how to make them at home.  I discussed this with the guys at work, and with Suzie to see if anybody had any insight to offer and to see if I was the only one who dreams about these little things.  Basically, those who had tried them love them and the rest of the world just doesn't know yet that they love them because they haven't tried them.  Unfortunately, nobody was able to offer any insight into how one might go about creating a McGriddle from scratch.  Furthermore, it turns out, there isn't a simple recipe to make them like you can find on Google for most restaurant yummies.  No, the McGriddle is apparently the result of years of painstaking scientific research.  That's's Science!!  It's not an easy thing to make a delicious little pancake that tastes like real maple syrup, but doesn't get your fingers all sticky and doesn't overwhelm the taste of everything else in the sandwich.  You can try adding syrup to the batter, but it changes the flavor and eventually, if you put too much, starts to make everything sticky and they won't cook right.  So McDs R&D department came up with some sort of wonderful maple syrup pellet that gets mixed into the batter to give it the flavor.  You can see them when you bite into it (they almost look like blueberries in fake blueberry muffin mix).  I eventually found a couple of websites with accounts of others who had tried to recreate a McGriddle at home.  The most successful attempts involved boiling down maple syrup until you get a sort of syrup candy which can be broken up into little bits and mixed into the batter.  I decided that I just had to try.

I have to say thank you so Suz, who let me experiment in our kitchen with A LOT of maple syrup over the last couple of weeks.  First I tried making my own maple syrup from scratch, but after many minutes of boiling and watching one of those candy thermometer thingies really closely, the whole potful of stuff instantly changed to a pot full of sugar.  It was really strange, and I'm sure it defied several known laws of physics and science (I hope Jason, the Chemical Engineer and pretty good cook, never reads this).  My next several attempts took the simpler route of boiling off-the-shelf pancake syrup down until it started turning candyish (somewhere between hard ball stage and soft crack stage for those of you who actually know something about baking).  After 4 or 5 tries, I ended up with a pretty good consistency that I was able to freeze and crunch up into tiny bits, but was still sort of soft and wouldn't be gritty and crunchy in the final pancake.

Last night I finally tried my first attempt at the whole shebang.  I mixed up some regular old bisquick pancake batter and mixed in a quarter cup of maple syrup and then added some of my wonderful syrup crystals.  I fried some eggs and bacon for filler and used your basic sliced/wrapped cheese that isn't really cheese.  I have to say, I was quite satisfied with the result.  It's obvious that I need to mix in a lot more of the crystals to get it just right, but the bites that did get some of the yummy little cooked in nuggets were really similar to the real thing.  I think I'll probably try again this week and, if all goes well, I'm thinking about making these for everybody when me and my siblings get together at a cabin in the woods at the end of the week.

So there you have my ode to the McGriddle and a first-hand account of my own quest to recreate the world's most underrated fast food menu item in my own home.  For those that have yet to experience McGriddle goodness, I strongly recommend you treat yourself this week and report back here with a comment about your experience (unless you're going to be one of those party poopers that says " was ok", in which case we'll know you're a liar and will have to publicly call you out on this blog).  And those of you who already know how amazing these things are, back me up here.

Good Music


So anybody who would be reading my blog probably knows that I love music.  Ever since I was 8 or 9, I've loved listening to all types of music and have spent countless hours browsing record/tape/cd stores and now online music services.  My reason for doing this, of course, is to find those absolute gems of musical perfection that pop up every once in a while on obscure and little known albums.  Some of my favorite albums and songs are those that most people have never heard of.  I swear it's not one of those "I love it because it's obscure and I have an insecurity issue that requires me to talk about and obsess over strange and obscure things" like a lot of the weirdos, punks and depressed kids in high school.  I really, really love some out-there stuff (like the Mighty Lemon Drops - World Without End), but likewise I really enjoy some very mainstream, overplayed stuff as well (Like the 2nd Kelly Clarkson album).  I'm just fascinated and grateful that I am wired in such a way that certain music speaks to my soul and brings me joy (I'll even admit that I've actually cried just from listening to music).  I don't find nearly as many of the unknown gems these days since I don't spend much time hanging out at the mall anymore and my awesome college dream job at Budget Tapes and Records is now several chapters back in my life story, but I still find myself wandering every once in a while through the MP3 download store, partaking of the free tracks and listening to the 30-second clips of the personalized recommendations they shove in my face.  It's a music lover's paradise!

Anyway, that was an extremely long introduction to a blog entry that I meant to write months ago, but just came back to my mind this week as I was flying to Chicago for a business trip.  I was checking my phone for some good tunes to block out all of those airplane sounds that can make you really annoyed and slightly claustrophobic if you start paying attention to them.  I put on an album that I bought a couple of months ago after downloading a freebie track on Amazon.  The album is "Keep Color" from The Republic Tigers.  This is just a great album (that word is suddenly sounding weird to the kids still use the word album today even though it's just a collection of binary

My best description of the music, which will likely not help any of you at all, is that they sound like a mix of Deathcab for Cutie with better harmonies and Blue October without so much anger and resentment.  I won't say that the album is all great, but there are a handful of songs that are just awesome and can be replayed over and over.  The freebie that I started with was "Buildings and Mountains" and if you listen to that one, I think you'll understand why I wanted to hear more.  It almost sounds like a cool 70's folk song, but has some interesting electronic sounds and layered vocals to make it modern.  Just a near-perfect alternative radio song.  You can hear this song and a couple of other good ones (though not my faves) on their MySpace page.  The band is still small enough that they don't seem to have an official homepage (at least not one that comes up on the first page of a Google search, and, let's be honest, if it's not on the first page of a Google search, it might as well not exist).  Or you can listen to the 30-second clips on Amazon.  My other favorites are "Give Arm to its Socket" with a funky tempo change that I love, the kind of spacy "Contortionists" and the totally-different-from-the-rest-of-the-album-but-still-great "Golden Sand" (very Peter Murphy-esque Nat).

Anyway, there you go.  Blog entry number 3.  I think this whole "Music I'm Currently Listening To" theme might end up being one of my oft-used cop-outs when I can't think of something earth-shattering, groundbreaking or thought-provoking.