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There are a few telltale signs that winter is coming. The sunset starts to come a little earlier in the day. Christmas lights go up around town. And, as sure as Santa making his rounds, McDonald’s Japan starts selling one of its most popular seasonal menu items, the gratin croquette burger.

We realize, though, that many of our loyal readers live outside of Japan. We don’t want anyone to feel left out, so we’re explaining how you can duplicate the sandwich, mostly with ingredients you’ve probably already got in your pantry. Be warned though. The gratin croquette burger is almost entirely made out of flour, and this delicious cocktail of carbs is in no way a feasible choice for anyone following the Atkins diet, no matter how delicious it is.

One member of the group of Western-inspired dishes to gain widespread acceptance in Japan is gratin, pronounced guratan in Japanese, which is a baked dish of pasta, white sauce, and a variety of other toppings and fillings. In 1993, someone at McDonald’s Japan decided to cook up a dollop of shrimp gratin in a croquette and stick it in a burger. You could say this flash of inspiration was like catching lightning in a bottle. You could also say it was simply catching a wad of deep-fried carbohydrates in a bun. Either way, the gratin croquette burger was a big hit, and deservedly so.

But even though some fast food aficionados rank the annual return of the sandwich as one of their favorite events of the year, whenever the gratin croquette burger goes on sale, you can count on a few critics grumbling online about how the seasonal item is little more than a mass of flour. We decided to put that hypothesis to the test by making our own, bun and all, from scratch.

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Our list of ingredients is short and simple. For the buns, you’ll need strong wheat flour, butter, milk, dry yeast, sugar, and salt. The croquette itself requires soft wheat flour, butter, milk, macaroni, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, eggs, and if you’re feeling really gourmet, some chopped shrimp and a little shredded cabbage.

We started with bun, since it would need time to bake. First, we mixed the milk, sugar, butter, and dry yeast together in a bowl.

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Next, we added the strong flour, kneaded the dough, shaped the buns, and popped them in the oven to bake.

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While they were baking, we went to work on the croquette, beginning with melting a pat of butter in a frying pan.

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Once the butter is melted, it’s time to mix in the soft flour.

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Add in some milk, and the resulting thick mixture, our white sauce, is ready.

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Next, it’s time to toss in even more flour, this time in the form of the macaroni, plus the shrimp if you’re using any.

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Form the mixture into a disk, and cover it with more flour and bread crumbs.

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Finally, fry that bad boy up!

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Once the buns are done, place a pinch of shredded cabbage on the bottom half, put the croquette on top of that, and crown the whole thing with the top half of the bun. Add whatever sauce or dressing you like.

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▼ The finished product

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Looking at our handiwork, there’s no denying that the bricks and mortar of this sandwich are nothing more than plain old flour and buttermilk.

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But you know what? We don’t care. There may not be any clever hidden complexities to the flavor here, but if there’s one thing humanity has proven in the several ages since we learned adding fire to our food tends to make it taste better, it’s that deep-fried carbohydrates are delicious.

The gratin croquette burger’s detractors may label it a vulgar demigod of carbs, but as far as our taste buds are concerned, this is one deity we’re comfortable pledging our faith to.

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Photos: RocketNews24
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