Most men have some sort of fast food that they like. If we let them, they would eat themselves to death, not to mention, blow their budget on the stuff. So it’s a good idea to learn how to make these things at home to give them a treat without sending them to an early grave.
So let’s start with burgers. The standard burger is about 100-150 grams. To make a family batch of burgers, you’d normally use:
- 1 kg. lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- salt and pepper to taste
Mash it all together, and form into patties. Fry in very little oil, or grill.
Not so bad, right? The problem isn’t the meat as much as it is the buns. Most bread you buy in the stores has soy lecithin, extra sugar, and other ingredients that aren’t so good for your man.
So the best way to handle this is to make your own. If you have a bread maker, it’s very easy. If not, learn how to make a standard French or Italian bread. If you’re really patient and industrious, you may want to try to make your own full rye or sourdough bread.
If you buy buns, try to go to a baker who does real sourdough or authentic regional breads. The best for burgers, in my opinion, are the Russian sort of half-rye breads. They hold together well, are very filling, and add good fiber, which your man needs. It’s also easier on the digestion overall.
If you are really against bread and don’t do cheat days at all in this, you can wrap burgers in lettuce, cooked cabbage leaves, or paleo tortillas.
Now, back to the burgers themselves. Do you remember that Eddie Murphy joke about “ghetto” burgers? Well, aside of being tastier than normal, these are a good way of sneaking vegetables and men’s health friendly herbs into something your man loves.
You will need:
- 1 kg. lean ground beef
- 2 eggs
- 1 crumbled piece of toast or 1/8 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon oil or rendered fat
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 heaping teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or a mix of soy and black vinegar
- 2 good dashes of black pepper
Mash all this together, form into patties, and fry or grill. If you want to be extra sneaky, use a food processor to puree the onions, bell peppers, and garlic. If you like them spicy, you can use hot peppers or hot sauce, or a combination of hot paprika and cumin. Season these how ever your family likes meat.
Fries or Chips
Now for the fries/chips. I don’t recommend frying chips at home. It is really wasteful for people who don’t eat a lot of fried food. You end up burning through a liter of oil just to let it sit for a month or two until you deep fry something else. Onion rings, we’ll get to later, but I make these in the leftover oil from schnitzels. So there’s really no need to go through the trouble and danger of deep frying chips when the oven will do the job even better.
Standard Potato Wedges (Oven Chips)
You will need:
- 6 medium-small potatoes
- a pot of water
- salt to taste plus a dash or two more because potatoes suck up salt
- 2 dashes black pepper
- 1 teaspoon tumeric
- an onion for the flavor, or 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Cut up and then put the potatoes in a pot of plain water.
Once you’re done, pour that starchy water out and then refill it and put the seasoning in the water.
Put the pot on the stove, and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, give it 5 more minutes.
Drain the potatoes, and lay them out to dry on a kitchen towel. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of oil.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until they are golden brown and crispy. If needed, you can add a bit more salt while they’re hot.
This is best done with potato wedges with the back end being about 2-2.5 cm (which would mean cutting a medium-small potato into sixths cross-ways or large ones the long way), or 2 cm cubes, or “steakhouse” cut. You want them on the thick side.
You can choose to dredge them in a seasoned flour mixture or not. If you choose not to, then definitely don’t skip the tumeric. Tumeric is really good for guys, and it imparts a nice golden color.
Season your flour with whatever herbs you like and are compatible with whatever else you’re making.
You should make about 2 potatoes per person. It seems a lot, but people really love these. If you don’t make enough, you will be pressed to make a new batch.
To make a nice, crispy coating that won’t fall off, take a big container with room to shake things around in, and put in some flour, salt, garlic crystals, parsley, black pepper, and paprika. Then in another container, put a little bit of buttermilk or a beaten egg with enough water added to make it somewhat thin.
Shake the potatoes in the flour. Then transfer them to the other container and shake them in the milk. Then put them back in the flour, and shake them again. Then lay them out on your baking sheet. You may have to do this a few times, depending on how many potatoes you used.
Once they are laid out on the baking sheet, drizzle or spray them with a little oil. Bake at about 175 degrees Celsius for about 40-50 minutes. You want them to be golden brown.
When they’re done, let them sit for a couple of minutes before serving. They are extremely hot inside.
If your man is not Native American at all, and/or has sensitivity to potatoes, you may want to consider making chips from “old world” vegetables. You can make crispy chips out of carrots, onion rings, or eggplants, or even daikon. You can also use new world vegetables that are less incompatible with old world digestion, such as zucchini.
Fried Chicken Secrets
Fried chicken is one of the favorite fast foods nearly everywhere in the world. This is yet another thing though, that I don’t think one should deep fry at home. If you’re not making a flat schnitzel, bake it instead. It will be just as good or maybe better.
However, the trick is to know the little secrets of how restaurants make their fried chicken extra special. Most of it is in the brining.
You may think of brining as something you do to a turkey, but it is great for any kind of poultry. It is essential for parts that tend to dry out too much, like the breasts.
If you are using kosher chicken, it has already been soaked in salt water to remove any traces of blood. So in that case, you should use about 1/4 of the salt and maybe half the vinegar, if any, that you would normally in a brine. You will still need a bit of stevia, sugar, or honey for the hint of sweetness.
Now…Chick-fil-A normally used cucumber dill pickle juice in their brine. That’s mostly it. Chick-fil-A is just chicken breasts brined for about 10 minutes in dill pickle juice, and fried in tempura batter. If you want to make it from scratch for say, 6 breasts, that’s:
- 4 cups of water
- 2-3 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoons sugar or 2 teaspoons honey or a good pinch of stevia herb, depending on its level of sweetness
- 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 heaping teaspoon of dried dill
- 1 heaping teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic crystals or powder
- a good dash of black pepper
You can use fresh herbs too, if you like. Just adjust them to your tastes.
Soak your chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes. It helps if you poke some holes in them with a filleting knife.
After the time has passed, drain them and gently squeeze some of the excess liquid out of them. Don’t do it too hard, or it defeats the moisturizing purpose of brining.
Prepare your tempura batter. If you’re doing that from scratch, it’s going to be:
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup corn or potato starch
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. citric acid
- 1 tsp. salt
- a dash of black pepper
enough water to make a somewhat thin batter (some people like to use club soda, but in my opinion, the baking soda/citric acid combination works best)
Prepare your oil in your frying pan. You don’t need to deep-fry these, but you need enough to “cradle” them in about half to 3/4 cm. of oil. You want to fry these on medium-low heat so they cook through.
Now, what you want to do is first dust the chicken breasts in a bit of flour. Then dip them in the tempura batter, and then put them in the oil.
Fry them on one side until they are golden brown. Do not move them at all, no matter how tempting, until you are absolutely sure they are at least mostly done on one side. Then turn them gently to fry the other side. You won’t be perfect at this the first few times, and may have to turn them more than once. Just do your best to keep the moving at a minimum.
When they are done, transfer them to a plate lined with some paper towels to soak up the oil.
With whatever you have left, you can fry onions or other vegetables.
I prefer to use turkey for schnitzel. Some say it’s healthier than chicken, but I don’t think so unless it’s a matter of how they’re raised. Back in my younger, wilder days, I “dated” a handsome poultry farmer who really practiced free range before it was trending. So I saw (and heard all freaking night) what things were supposed to be like.
Here in Israel, I mostly see turkeys being raised outdoors, and chickens being raised indoors. So I trust the turkey more because I see them actually running around their enclosures whenever I take a bus further north.
Turkey is also easier to make into schnitzels. Buy a couple of turkey breasts, and process them at home all at once, or have your butcher do this if it’s not too costly. You just take out all the cartilage and veins, slice it across the grain, lay the slices out inside a bag, and pound them. Then keep them separated in the freezer with wax paper, cling film, or cheap sandwich bags. You can then take out as many as you need. So it’s economical and reduces waste.
Another thing I like about turkey for schnitzel is that even though you can make it very tender, it’s not so fragile. You get nice big pieces that fit nicely on a sandwich, survive mayonnaise and veggies well, and don’t fall apart when you look at them.
Last, but not least, they soak up your brine like a champ.
So here’s my recipe.
Niki’s Turkey Schnitzel
You will need 1 kg. sliced, pounded turkey breast
For the brine:
- 4 cups lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
Stir until the salt and honey is dissolved.
For the egg mixture:
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup yogurt, cream, or buttermilk
- 1 heaping teaspoon ras el hanout (you can use chicken grill seasoning or seasoned salt)
- a dash of black pepper
- a teaspoon of salt
Beat until well combined.
For the flour coating:
- 1.5 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons corn or potato starch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- another heaping teaspoon ras el hanout
Mix these in a container with a lid, and shake it up to combine it well.
Oven “Fried” Chicken
Good fried chicken is a bit more complicated than schnitzel, but it is well worth the effort. You still follow similar steps, but again, because I don’t recommend deep frying at home, oven “frying” is the way to go.
For your liquid dip, I recommend omitting the egg, and just using milk or yogurt and seasoning, with the addition of about a tablespoon of oil. The reason why is that if you want a crispy coating, you need to be sure some oil touches all of the flour.
Just dip, dredge in seasoned flour, and bake on a greased pan at 175 Celsius for an hour or until golden brown and sizzling.
To make something like Popeyes chicken, rub the chicken generously with hot sauce before shaking in flour with some seasoned salt in it.
Kentucky Baked Chicken
To make something like KFC, mix some of this spice mix with the flour.
To make something like Church’s fried chicken, use buttermilk or yogurt for the dip, and self rising flour, cornstarch, seasoned salt, sage, paprika, and parsley for the dredge. Dredge in the flour, buttermilk, then flour again.
Fish and Chips
We’ve already covered chips. To make fish like the chains, simply do it tempura style. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on Atlantic white fish of some sort. Then dredge them in seasoned flour, and then the tempura batter. Then fry them.
The Versatile Tortilla
The same dough and press that you use to make flour tortillas, you can use to make wrappers for eggrolls or dumplings. So you should invest in an electric mixer with dough hooks, and a tortilla press or electric tortilla maker.
For flour tortillas, mix 3 cups of almost any flour with a teaspoon of salt, and just enough water to make a pliable dough. Knead for 5 minutes, or use the dough hooks. Then wrap the ball in plastic wrap, or put it in a bag or covered bowl for 15 minutes on a hot day or half an hour on a cold day. If you are not using the white wheat flour, you may want to let it ferment a little longer so that things break down and get stretchy enough to make a durable tortilla.
Roll into small balls, press the dough in your tortilla press, and fry on a dry pan until some bubbles start to form. Then turn them over to slightly brown the other side.
To make eggroll or dumpling wraps, have some cheap sandwich bags, squares of wax paper, or plastic wrap ready to keep them separated. Then put in a bag or container and freeze…or use them right away.
If you like crunchy tacos, you can make them with equal parts of masa de harina and water. Press them and dry-fry them on a pan. It won’t work in the electric tortilla maker in one go, but you can use it as a press. After dry-frying a batch of them, you can curve them and fry them in oil to make crunchy taco shells.
If you’re looking for ideas, check out Serious Eats’ Guide to Tacos.
Tex Mex Seasoning
Mexicans and other people in Central and South America use a variety of spices and seasonings. It can vary from place to place and family to family. What most people are looking for when they’re having that fast-food craving though, is a sort of standard Tex Mex taco seasoning. To make your own without MSG or other harmful ingredients, mix:
- 3 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons chili powder if you like it mild, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper or a specific powdered chili if you like it hot
- 1 tablespoon dried cilantro or oregano
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon tomato powder if you can find it
- 1 heaping teaspoon garlic crystals
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Use about a tablespoon of this per pound of ground beef. You can play around with the amounts to get the exact flavor your family prefers.
Macaroni and Cheese
Sometimes he just has a craving. When this happens, you at least want him to get it with fresh ingredients made at home.
The macaroni part is very simple. The trick is the cheese sauce. It is very simple to make, but many don’t know exactly how it is done, so many recipes result in a sticky, goopy mess. Here’s how to make it like the restaurants.
You will need:
- 100 grams (usually half a stick) of butter or if you want him to move mountains for you, bacon fat or rendered smoked goose or duck fat
- 1/3 cup of flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a good dash of black pepper
- a good handful (about 1 cup) sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 to 1.5 cups of milk (I prefer goat milk for this)
Cook your macaroni until it is al dente, then drain and rinse it in very cold water. You want it to stop cooking.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper.
Put your big pot back on the stove. Heat it until it is dried out.
On medium heat, melt the butter.
When the butter is beginning to sizzle but not quite melted all the way, add the flour mixture.
Stir it around until the flour is starting to fry a little. You just want to get the pastiness out of it. Do not let it burn.
When the flour is just before turning color a little, begin slowly pouring in your milk, while whisking with a wire whisk.
Once all your milk is in, stop for 10 seconds, and whisk it again, then stop and whisk. Do this until the milk mixture is starting to steam, but is not quite boiling. If it is thicker than ketchup, it is too thick. Add a little more milk, and whisk it some more.
Once your milk mixture is hot, add the cheese, and whisk non stop until the cheese is melted and distributed. That’s your cheese sauce. Turn the heat down to medium-low or low, depending on your burner strength.
Add your macaroni into this sauce, and fold with a spoon, starting and stopping, until it is all hot. Then turn the heat off. You do not want this to burn at all. If it seems like it’s drying out a little, just add more milk and keep up the intermittent folding.
Remove this from the burner, and serve hot.
Once this is done, you can, if you like, put servings in little casserole dishes, sprinkle them with croutons or breadcrumbs, or a bit of shredded cheese, and bake them for about 15 minutes at 200 Celsius.
Armed with these secrets, you can outdo any fast food chain, and make your man very happy.