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California Pizza Kitchen

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    Crispy cauliflower appetizers are abundant at the chains these days, and not all of them are good enough to be clone-worthy, but CPK’s take on breaded cauliflower in buffalo wing sauce is one of the best I’ve had. The crispy florets are made gluten-free with rice flour and they are beautifully presented in a puddle of ranch dressing, sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese, and topped with julienned celery and green onions.  

    For the sauce, CPK chefs combine the flavor of traditional buffalo wings with sriracha and then sweeten it a bit. After a few tries, I came up with a hack that’s ridiculously easy, requiring only four ingredients. 

    The batter is even easier, with only three ingredients: rice flour, buttermilk and salt, and once your oil is hot enough, it takes under 3 minutes to cook the cauliflower to perfection. After a gentle toss in the secret sauce, you’re ready to plate your trendy appetizer.

    For your main course, check out my clone recipes for popular CPK pizzas, soups, and salads here.

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    Menu Description: "With pieces of chicken marinated in a spicy peanut-ginger and sesame sauce, green onions, bean sprouts, julienne carrots, cilantro and roasted peanuts."

    After the first California Pizza Kitchen opened in Beverly Hills in 1985 success came quickly: there are currently 78 restaurants in 18 states. In 1992, huge food conglomerate PepsiCo paid over $70 million for a 70 percent share of the company-just eight years after Larry and Rick started the company. As for those two, well, they pocketed $18 million apiece, or around 70 times their initial investment in 1985. 

    Thai Chicken Pizza is one of the oldest varieties of pizza still on the menu, and remains a favorite. If you prefer, you can make this California Pizza Kitchen Thai Chicken Pizza recipe with a store-bought package dough or dough mix, but I recommend making the crust yourself. If you decide to do that, make it one day ahead of time so that it can rise slowly in the refrigerator. If you liked this, be sure to check out our CPK BBQ chicken pizza recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "With grilled chicken breast marinated in lime and herbs, Southwestern black beans, fire-roasted mild chilis, sweet white onions and Cheddar cheese. Served with green tomatillo salsa and sour cream."

    Menu Description: "With grilled chicken breast marinated in lime and herbs, Southwestern black beans, fire-roasted mild chilis, sweet white onions and Cheddar cheese. Served with green tomatillo salsa and sour cream."

    California Pizza Kitchen uses imported Italian wood-fired ovens to bake the specialty pizzas. These ovens reach temperatures over 800 degrees F, allowing the pizzas to cook in just three minutes. This technique keeps ingredients from drying out so that the pizzas don't require as much cheese as in traditional recipes. 

    Unfortunately, most of us don't have wood-burning pizza ovens in our kitchens so I have designed these recipes to work in a conventional oven with a minimum of cheese. If you have a pizza stone, use it. If you have a hard time finding tomatillos (they look like small green tomatoes with a thin papery skin and are found in the produce section) you can use canned green salsa. 

    You have the option of using a store-bought crust or instant pizza dough, but I can't say enough about making the dough yourself from the recipe here. You just have to plan ahead, making the dough one day before you plan to bake the pizza. This way the dough will get to rest and will rise slowly in the refrigerator—a great technique the pros use.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 26

    Got one of those cool hand blenders? It comes in handy for this recipe, which requires the split peas to be smashed into a smooth consistency, just like the original. If you don't have a hand blender, also called a stick blender, a standard blender works just fine. This soup is very tasty and very low in fat. And the barley gives it a special chunky texture and nutty flavor that isn't found in most pea soups.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–2 cups
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–450
    Fat per serving–3g

    Source: Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

    Menu Description: "Shredded napa cabbage, chilled grilled chicken breast, julienne cucumbers, edamame, crispy wontons, peanuts, cilantro, julienne carrots, red cabbage and scallions tossed with a lime-cilantro dressing. Topped with crispy rice sticks and Thai peanut dressing."

    You can plan ahead for this amazing salad clone by first grilling the chicken and chilling it, then preparing the cilantro-lime dressing and the peanut sauce in advance. The menu description says that the salad is topped with "crispy rice sticks," but they look to me like crispy bean threads, cooked in a flash when dropped into hot oil for a few seconds. The crispy wontons are made from frying thinly sliced wonton wrappers in the same hot oil. For the edamame (soybeans), look in the frozen food section, and if they're still in their pods, be sure to take them out before measuring and tossing them into the salad. Once you've got everything chilled and chopped, building each dish is a breeze, and you'll have four huge dinner-size salads that will each be enough for an entire meal.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    When PepsiCo shelled out $100 million for a 67 percent share of the trendy pizza chain back in 1992, founders Lawrence Flax and Richard Rosenfield thought they had it made. Unfortunately, the company behind Pizza Hut found expanding the more upscale eatery an unfamiliar struggle. The company expanded too quickly, and as costs began to dwarf sales figures, fresh ingredients were replace with cheaper frozen products. Customers noticed and sales took a nosedive. By 1996, PepsiCo decided to bail out.

    The following year, PepsiCo's share of the chain was picked up by New York investment firm Rosser, Sherrill and Co. Fresh ingredients returned to the kitchens, and the size of the pizzas was increased without adjusting the price. Sales once again blossomed, and the chain was on its way back to turning its first profit since 1991.

    Here's a great pizza to clone if you need to take a little time off from delicious-yet-fat-filled mozzarella cheese. With the marinated, grilled eggplant and tasty honey-wheat dough, you won't even miss that gooey white stuff. Be sure to start this one a day before you plan to eat it. The dough needs that long to rise in the fridge for just the right California Pizza Kitchen-like taste.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–3 slices
    Total servings–2
    Calories per serving–380
    Fat per serving–8g

    Source: Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 3

    When you get a steaming bowl of great tortilla soup plopped down in front of you, it's tough to stop slurping until you hit bottom. California Pizza Kitchen has just such a soup, but the oil and fried tortilla chips jack up the fat. Never fear. We can now make this delicious white corn tortilla soup taste just as good as the original without most of the oil and fat. Fat-free chicken broth stands in well for the regular stuff, and baked corn tortilla chips give the soup its traditional taste and texture. You'll want to use a hand blender for this one, if you've got one. If not, a regular blender or food processor will work fine to puree the soup so that it has the smooth consistency of the original but with only a miniscule two grams of fat per serving.

    Check out my other clone recipes for CPK soups, salads, and pizza here.

    Nutrition Facts
    :
    Serving size–1 1/2 cups
    Total servings–4
    Calories–260 (Original–305)
    Fat–2g (Original–14g)

    Source: Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "Chopped lettuce, black beans, sweet corn, jicama, cilantro, basil, crispy corn tortilla strips, and Monterey Jack cheese tossed together in our herb ranch dressing. Topped with chopped BBQ chicken breast, diced tomatoes and scallions."

    It was probably the popularity of CPK's BBQ chicken pizza that inspired this twist on the original chopped salad. I think the herb ranch dressing that's made here is much better than any ranch dressing you can buy in bottles in your local supermarket, but you can still choose to use one of those on this salad to speed things up, if you prefer. You might also consider substituting ingredients listed here for lower-fat ingredients, such as low-fat mayonnaise, sour cream and fat-free milk. As with any clone, consider this formula as your springboard into a custom dish that suits your own specs.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.80. Votes: 5

    This CPK creation is a top pick at the 209-unit chain, most likely because chefs slather on a delicious sweet-and-spicy Caribbean sauce where tomato sauce usually sits on traditional Italian-style pies. Making the sauce from scratch is the way to go for true clone rangers, but if you'd like a shortcut, find Tiger Sauce in your local market where the bottled hot sauces are sold, and use that. If you want another shortcut, rather than mixing your own jerk seasoning from scratch, use any jerk blend or seasoning. I do recommend making the pizza dough from scratch, rather than buying prepared dough, however. You'll need to plan ahead on this part of the recipe so that the dough has a chance to slowly rise in your fridge overnight. This is the technique the pros use to recreate professional-style, chewy pizza dough. To bake the pizzas—this recipes makes two—I suggest cooking them on a preheated pizza stone in your oven. This is the best way to reproduce the taste and texture of the great pizzas at CPK.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.83. Votes: 6

    Menu Description: "Applewood smoked bacon, grilled chicken and Mozzarella cheese, hearth baked, then topped with Roma tomatoes, chilled chopped lettuce tossed in mayonnaise and fresh sliced avocados."

    There's no better way to clone the great pizzas from this creative chain than to start with dough made from scratch. Since the best way to recreate commercial-style pizza dough at home is to use the same slow-rising technique the pros use, you're going to have to plan ahead at least 24 hours. This is the length of time it will take for the gluten in the flour to work its magic while resting comfortably in your refrigerator. And, if you've got the patience, 48 hours is even better. Once the dough is ready to go, you should bake your pizzas—this recipe makes two—on a pre-heated pizza stone in your oven. If you don't already have one, you can find one of the round or rectangular stones in just about any housewares store. This cooking method is the absolute best way to produce an evenly baked finished product with a texture and taste that mirrors the amazing pies CPK whips out of rocket-hot brick pizza ovens.

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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