Tomorrow is Cleaning Day in our house. Of the 7 of us in residence, 2 are cats and 3 are children, none of whom visibly appreciates either basic hygiene or the fundamentals of picking up after one’s self, so Cleaning Day is a big deal. Of course, my wife and I try to chip away at the trail of dirty clothes, random toys, and partially digested rodents that the 5 littles leave in their wake – OK, mainly my wife – but the trend is inexorably downward, and without Cleaning Day, our house would quickly approximate something out of a documentary on Hurricane Katrina. And that won’t do.
So, while my wife proscribes many activities on Cleaning Day, she justifiably reserves a special place for Messy Cooking, including, inter alia, anything involving a stand mixer, hand-made pasta, or my penchant for hot cast iron and spattering grease. All of which is for the best, not only because the house returns (if briefly) to a livable state, but because the night preceding Cleaning Day invariably means willful kitchen destruction, and that, as often as not, means burger night.
I really like burgers – as my kids would say, alottalottalot. I get excited just thinking about biting into a hot, salty exterior crust that gives way to a cooler, crumbly interior, full of beefy flavor; the gently toasted bun that can’t quite keep the juices from oozing down between my fingers; the tang of a ripe tomato, the cool crisp of good lettuce and snappy pickles, the richness of melting cheese and fresh mayonnaise… That whole last-meal thing? One could do worse than the deceptive simplicity of a perfect burger. And while burger perfection in toto is beyond the scope of a single post, I would like to share one little bit of hard-won knowledge, the condiment.
Reasonable people might disagree about the virtues of the frightfully expensive hautes burgers popping up around the County, but I doubt that many would impugn the greasy, evil genius of In-N-Out’s Animal Style offering . That being said, the dirty little secret of getting it on Animal Style is that it’s mainly about the condiments, and if you don’t mind the extra hassle, it’s kinda like nookie, you can do it better at home. And while those quintessentially fondue-like onions may take some time, the famed “spread” is about as easy as it gets.
In-N-Out Animal Spread, SoCo Home Style
In-N-Out “spread” is essentially 1,000-island dressing; the key is to use good pickles, and to get the proportions right. I’ve found that I prefer proportionately less mayo than they use, and that it makes great sense to add lots more pickles to the spread and forgo adding whole slices of pickle entirely (partly because I like my foods relatively high-acid, but mainly because you get the same flavor profile, but with a more even distribution and superior structural integrity – i.e., no “sliding” – when they’re in the sauce).
Ingredients: Mayo (preferably homemade, but not essentially so), Ketchup (preferably Heinz, organic version is OK), Yellow Mustard (French’s is great, but I used Safeway’s “O” house-brand organic to fine effect), and Pickles (minced, ideally from Alexander Valley Gourmet or similar)
Method: Add 1/4C each of the mayo, ketchup, and minced pickles to a small mixing bowl. Add 1T of the mustard. Mix everything to combine. Adjust to taste – you may wish to add a bit of mayo, and possibly some vinegar and sugar, if you want it to taste more like the In-N-Out version; but otherwise, you’re done.