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    Wendy’s claims it took three years to develop the hit chicken sandwich that’s built on a croissant roll and slathered with the chain’s secret maple glaze. Now I’ll show you how to re-create four of these sandwiches at home, all with the same components, in about an hour. To speed up the process, we’ll incorporate shortcuts, including pre-breaded frozen chicken and Pillsbury Crescent rolls in a tube.

    For the chicken, find frozen chicken breasts or large tenderloins with a homestyle breading. Tyson’s Southern Style Breast Tenderloins work great if you pick out the biggest pieces from the bag. The breading nicely matches Wendy’s.

    Rather than making croissants from scratch, which is a time-consuming task, we’ll use the very common Pillsbury dough from a tube. Pillsbury’s “Crescents” are not true croissants, even though they look and taste similar to croissants. Real croissant dough rises with yeast and would blow out a Pillsbury paper tube in a day or two, even if chilled. For that reason, Pillsbury uses baking powder in products that usually call for yeast, such as cinnamon rolls and croissants. Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent activated by heat, and it will remain stable in the refrigerated section of your supermarket, safely inside the paper tubes until you bake it.

    Instead of cooking the rolls as directed on the package, separate the dough down the middle and stack the two pieces. After rolling the dough, it’s sliced and formed in a 3½-inch ring mold, then baked. These will be your croissant buns. If you don’t have a 3½-inch ring mold you can use a ring from a canning jar or a biscuit cutter. If the diameter is less than 3½ inches, just form the dough using the smaller mold, then remove the mold and press down on the dough until it is 3½ inches across. 

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    The problem with adding sauce to fried food is that the wet sauce makes the crunchy fried food not so crunchy. Panda Express manages to keep the crispy beef in Beijing Beef crispy even though it may be sitting for over 20 minutes in the sauce until it’s served to a hungry you. My early attempts at hacking my favorite dish at the massive Chinese food chain all resulted in gummy, soggy beef that was more like a flat dumpling than the delicious crunchy strips of joy they were meant to be. Then, finally, on one batch, I decided to fry the coated beef for much longer than I intuitively felt it should be cooked, resulting in dark browning on the cornstarch, and an even darker piece of meat beneath it. I predicted a beef jerky experience, but when I took a bite, I found it to be perfect! The meat was not tough and chewy as I expected. And when this seemingly overcooked beef was stirred into the sauce, it stayed crispy until served, just like the real thing.

    Now, with the mystery of the crispy beef solved, we’ve finally got a great hack for this famous sweet and spicy dish.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The PSL is doing A-OK at Starbucks. In 2018, Starbucks moved the release of its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte from September to August in anticipation of record sales for the 15-year-old product. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, consumers in 2017 “visited PSL establishments twice as many times as typical patrons,” most likely because they know the drinks are around for only a short time.

    The trick when hacking this Starbucks superstar is making a perfect clone of the syrup used in the drink. I found a friendly barista who was willing to squirt a little of the secret syrup into a cup for me to take back to headquarters for examination. Back in the kitchen I discovered the mysterious light orange-colored syrup had no spice particles in it whatsoever, meaning the flavors are added as extracts or oils. Most home cooks like you and me cannot get such ingredients, so I had to come up with a formula using easily accessible ground spices and pumpkin puree.   

    Pumpkin pie spice makes this recipe easy and much cheaper than buying all the spices separately. It’s a convenient blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, plus either allspice or clove, and it’s found in practically all food stores. For our hack, the blend is combined with a sugar solution and cooked until syrupy, then sweetened condensed milk is stirred in. Condensed milk is also used in the original syrup at Starbucks—according to the ingredients list—which is why the syrup is opaque and creamy. When the syrup is done, a couple tablespoons are added to your latte, then it’s topped off with whipped cream and a sprinkling of more spice.

    Lattes are made with espresso, and in this case you’ll need a double shot, which is about ¼ cup. If you can’t make espresso, then make some strong coffee and use ½ cup of it. If you don’t have a way to steam milk, you can heat it up in the microwave for 2 minutes or until hot, then make it foamy with a milk foamer, inversion blender, or whisk.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    This limited-time-only new product from the country’s biggest Mexican fast food chain is easy to make with bagged fries found in the freezer section, and you can make as many or as few as you want at one time since there is more than enough seasoning and cheese sauce for one 2-pound bag. Get Ore-Ida Golden Fries if you can find them, and if you want a good clone you really should fry them, although baking works too. The secret spicy ingredient in the nacho cheese sauce is brine from the bottled jalapeno nacho slices, plus a little cayenne for extra boom. And if you’re feeling creative, you can make a fry holder like the one Taco Bell serves the fries in by cutting the top off a paper cup. You can also cut the bottom off another paper cup and use it to hold the sauce.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "Large shrimp sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil with white wine, garlic and lemon."

    Once you have the onion, garlic and parsley all chopped up, this clone of a top appetizer pick at the Garden takes only a few minutes to assemble. Cooks at Olive Garden speed up the process by using what they call "scampi butter"—chilled blocks of butter with all the spices, garlic, and onions already in it—so that each serving is prepared quickly and consistently without any tedious measuring. When the shrimp is done, each one is placed on the inside end of five toasted Italian bread slices (you can also use a French baguette) and a delicious sauce is poured over the top. I've included diced roma tomato here as an optional garnish, since one Olive Garden used it, but another location on the other side of town did not. As for the shrimp, use medium-size (they're called 31/40) that are already peeled, but with the tails left on. Butterfly the shrimp by slicing almost all the way through the middle. As the shrimp cooks, they will curl and spread open.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    For years now I've been on the lookout for a great chain restaurant crème brulee to clone for one of my books, but I hadn't located a really fantastic formula to hack until I tried this one. The Capital Grille's Classic Crème Brulee is a perfect blend of sweet and creamy with amazing flavor that comes from real vanilla bean. If you want an easy dessert to impress that you can prepare a day or two in advance of the sit-down, this is your recipe. When it comes time to serve the brulee, sprinkle each serving with a little white sugar and caramelize it with a small chef's torch (if you don't already have one, you can find them online or at kitchen stores for around 15 bucks). Add a garnish of fresh seasonal berries plus a sprig of mint, and serve up the goodness.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "A spicy Thai dish with the flavors of curry, peanut, chili, and coconut. Sauteed with vegetables and served over rice."

    This dish ranks very high among the most frequent entree clone requests from this growing chain's huge menu, and anyone who is a fan of Thai dishes falls in love with it. I dig recipes that include scratch sauces that can be used with other dishes. The curry and peanut sauces here are good like that. They can, for example, be used to sauce up grilled skewers of chicken or other meats, or as a flavorful drizzle onto lettuce wraps. But even though I've included the peanut sauce recipe from scratch here, you can take the quick route and save a little prep time by picking up a pre-made sauce found near the other Asian foods in the market. Since the sauce is used sparingly in a drizzle over the top of this dish it won't make a big difference which way you go. This recipe produces two Cheesecake Factory-size servings—which is another way of saying "huge." If your diners aren't prepared to process the gargantuan gastronomy and you're all out of doggie bags, you can easily split this recipe into four more sensible portions. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.67. Votes: 9

    In March 1988 the first McDonald's in Belgrade,Yugoslavia, set an all-time opening-day record by running 6,000 people under the arches. In early 1990, when a Moscow McDonald's opened, it became the busiest in the world by serving more than 20,000 people in just the first month of operation. The McDonald's Rome franchise racks up annual sales of more than $11 million. And in August of 1992, the world's largest McDonald's opened in China. The Beijing McDonald's seats 700 people in 28,000 square feet. It has over 1,000 employees, and parking for 200 employee bicycles. McDonald's outlets dot the globe in fifty-two countries today, including Turkey, Thailand, Panama, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Poland. About 40 percent of the McDonald's that open today stand on foreign soil—that's more than 3,000 outlets.

    Back in the United States, McDonald's serves one of every four breakfasts eaten out of the home. The Egg McMuffin sandwich was introduced in 1977 and has become a convenient breakfast-in-a-sandwich for millions. The name for the sandwich was not the brainstorm of a corporate think tank as you would expect, but rather a suggestion from ex-McDonald's chairman and CEO Fred Turner. He says his wife Patty came up with it.

    You will need an empty clean can with the same diameter as an English muffin. A 6 1/2 ounce tuna can works well.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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