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    When I first hacked this recipe back in 1997 for the book, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, Hooters wings looked different than they do today. The chain used to leave the pointy end of the wing attached to the middle piece, or “flat,” which, frankly, is unnecessary because there is very little meat on the tip segment. Today the chain serves wings like everyone else, drumettes and flats, completely separated, and delivered by waitresses in the same bright orange shorts as when the chain started in 1983.

    One thing that wasn't available to me back then was the opportunity to examine the chain’s packaging for the lists of ingredients on signature items like sauces and breading. Today, since they sell these items as retail products, I can take advantage of labelling laws which require ingredients to be clearly listed, and see what really goes into these recipes. Using that new information I’ve made a few small tweaks to improve this recipe from over 20 years ago, including two versions of the kickass wing sauce—medium and hot—for your wing-devouring pleasure.

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    Menu Description: "Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto, and a lemon garlic sauce.”

    This Olive Garden signature dish hack starts with a quick 30-minute brine to bless the chicken with flavor and juiciness. While the chicken is marinating and then grilling, you’ll have plenty of time to make the basil pesto and lemon garlic sauce knock-offs.

    When the chicken comes off the grill, it gets topped with cheese and popped under the broiler for a nice melt. Once plated, the chicken is doused with sauce, topped with pesto, and sprinkled with grape tomato halves.

    I also worked up a clone for the side served with this entree at Olive Garden—the Parmesan zucchini. I've got that hack in the Tidbits below if you’d like to include this simple addition to your copycat plate.

    This recipe makes four servings, which is four lunch-size servings at Olive Garden, or two dinner portions. How hungry are you?

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    In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family Golden Retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life Golden Retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight, and their formula is now considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.

    The Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from ten thousand cases in the first year to over one hundred thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a secret. Despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drats!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.

    I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. The recipe starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t go over 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off.

    My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the original created by the addition of caramel coloring, which can be hard to find. But a more common ingredient called Kitchen Bouquet did the trick here, adding a rich brown tone that perfectly matches the color of the real thing.

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    Hooters debuted a new flavor and style of their famous chicken wings in 2013 with the introduction of Daytona Beach Style Wings—naked wings (not breaded) that are fried, sauced and grilled. The new menu item was a sales success, eclipsing the famous buffalo style wings the chain had become known for, and making it imperative that we have a delicious and accurate copycat hack. And now we do.

    To build an identical home version you’ll first need to make a knock-off of the delicious Daytona sauce to brush over the wings. It’s a combination of barbecue sauce and the same cayenne sauce used to coat traditional Buffalo wings, plus a few other important ingredients that make the sauce special (and things you won’t find in other hacks), like Worcestershire sauce and minced jalapenos. The wings are coated, grilled for just a minute on each side, then sauced again for maximum flavor. Stack the napkins close by and get something tall to drink, because these messy wings are guaranteed to deliver a super spicy kick to your food hole.

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    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and very simple to duplicate at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan. Starting over, I referred to the soup ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe I found online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth this soup would be severely lacking in flavor, and that’s no good either.

    In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding true MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that provides the same savory quality. Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with the vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

    Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red skin potatoes, poblano pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just add water and a little patience. 

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    The Cheesecake Factory’s latest decadent dessert goes extreme with America’s favorite cookie. You’ll find Oreos in the middle of the cheesecake, in the cookie mousse layer, pressed onto the edge, sprinkled on the whipped cream, and even up on top where an Oreo wafer crowns each slice. In fact, this copycat Cheesecake Factory Oreo cheesecake recipe is designed to use every Oreo in a standard package—all 36 of them! This beautiful cheesecake starts with a chocolate cake layer, topped with a layer of chocolate buttercream icing, followed by a no-bake cheesecake layer, Oreo cookie mousse, and more chocolate icing. It’s a chocolate lover’s—and Oreo lover’s—dream, and, not surprisingly, one of The Cheesecake Factory’s best sellers.

    When creating your own version of this dessert masterpiece at home, be sure to use a 10-inch springform pan. This is a big cheesecake, and you'll get 12 large slices out of it. And it costs far less to hack this at home than to buy the real thing at the restaurant, which will set you back 56 bucks.

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    Hellmann’s—or Best Foods as the company is known west of the Rockies—recently debuted this new ketchup for customers looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients. The label lists only six ingredients: tomato puree, honey, white wine vinegar, salt, onion powder, and spices. It wasn’t immediately clear what the “spices” referred to until I wiped a wide smear of the ketchup across a white plate, making the blacks specks of fine grind pepper clearly stand out. After that it was just a matter of getting the ratios right.

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    A requirement of any visit to Chicago is eating at least one slice of deep dish pizza in the city that perfected it. Deep dish pizza quickly became a Chicago staple after Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened the first Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and served a hearty new style of pizza constructed in a high-rimmed cake pan. The yeast crust was tender and flakey, like a pastry, and the cheese was layered under the sauce so that it wouldn’t burn in a hot oven for the long cooking time.

    While researching a home hack of this now iconic recipe I discovered an unexpected technique that I hadn’t seen in any other deep dish recipes. Employees told me the pizza crusts are partially cooked each morning to cut down on the wait time for customers. Before the restaurant opens each day, cooks press the dough into a pan and then sprinkle it with a little shredded cheese. The shells are then partially baked and set aside. Later, when an order comes in, the pizza is built into one of the par-baked crusts and finished off. This way customers get their food faster, and the tables turn over quicker.

    Copying that delicious, flakey crust was the task that took me the longest. After two weeks of baking, I finally settled on a formula that mashed-up yeast dough and pie crust, making a perfectly tender deep dish crust with great flavor that exactly mimicked the original. If you like Uno, you will love this.

    Regarding the cheese: be sure your cheese is at room temperature, and not cold, or it may not melt all the way through. Also, it’s best if you buy cheese by the block and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch (so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag), and it won’t melt as smoothly as cheese you shred by hand.

    This recipe will make enough sauce for two pizzas. Just thought you should know that in case you get the urge to make another deep dish after this one disappears.

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    Three components must be mastered to hack this top menu pick at the country’s largest fast Chinese chain: candied nuts, honey sauce, and perfectly battered shrimp. For the candied walnuts I came up with a technique using the oven, which means there’s no candy thermometer required and it’s a no-brainer. The shrimp at Panda Express is not tightly curled up, and you can do the same thing at home when you fry yours. Pinch the tail of each shrimp after it has been floured and dip it into the batter until well-coated. The weight of the batter will help to unfurl the shrimp, and if you lower each one slowly into the batter it will mostly stay that way. When all of the shrimp has fried, you bake them in the oven so that they are crispy and warm, then toss the shrimp and the nuts in the delicious honey sauce and serve.

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    Here's how to build a cheeseburger in crispy spring roll dough and make the secret 4-ingredient dipping sauce, for a perfect hack of one of Cheesecake Factory’s newest appetizers. I found the best solution for a good clone was to first cook two 4-ounce Angus patties—with 15% fat so the beef stays juicy—in a saute pan until browned. I then grilled some onion in the same pan, and mixed it into the crumbled patties, with ketchup, and diced American cheese. 

    I tried several different wrappers and found the thinnest wrappers to work the best. Try to find wrappers that say “super thin” on them. Thicker dough wrappers will blister when fried, which is not how the restaurant version looks, although the thicker wrappers still make tasty spring rolls. Rice paper wrappers will give you a chewier, less crispy bite, but are a good option if you're interested in a gluten-free version. If you go with rice paper, you won’t need the cornstarch solution to seal them. Just dipping the wrapper in a little water makes the rice paper pliable and naturally sticky.

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