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Entrees

Nice work! You just found recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home for less money than eating out. Todd's recipes are easy to follow and fun to make! See if Todd has hacked your favorite entrees here. New recipes added every week.

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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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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    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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    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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    To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

    As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

    On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

    I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipesbut recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

    It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. The widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing from that recipe, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

    I incorporated all those missing ingredients into this new hack recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces, and the beef transforms into a fork-flakable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.  

    As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is a good choice for this Olive Garden braised beef Bolognese recipe.

    Check out my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

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    Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”

    This recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up, and she begged for more. Great, now I won’t have to eat it alone.

    Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat hack for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken filets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will knock their socks off.

    Try this dish paired with my recent free clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete O.G. Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

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    The 729-unit chain did not start its life as Qdoba. When the Mexican food chain was first founded by Robert Miller and Anthony Hauser in Denver, Colorado in 1995 it was called Zuma Mexican Grill, named after a friend’s cat. As it turns out, a restaurant in Boston had that same name and threatened to sue, so the partners changed the name to Z-Teca. It wasn’t long before two different restaurants threatened to sue for that name—Z’Tejas in Arizona and Azteca in Washington—and the partners were forced to change the name yet again. This time they called their restaurant  Qdoba, a completely made-up name that was unlikely to be used by anyone else.             

    A signature item and consistent top seller is this marinated adobo chicken, offered as a main ingredient in most of the chain’s selections. Make this chicken by marinating thigh meat for a couple of days in the secret adobo sauce (a worker there told me they let it soak for up to 8 days) then grill and chop. Use the flavorful chicken in burritos, tacos, bowls, on nachos, and in tortilla soup.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The new Mac & Cheese at Chick-fil-A is baked fresh every day, and the recipe is more complex than you might expect from a fast food chicken chain. According to the official list of ingredients, the formula includes several different kinds of cheese including Parmesan, Romano and an award-winning hard cheese from Wisconsin called BellaVitano. The BellaVitano adds a subtle nuttiness to the mix and all three hard cheeses contribute heavy umami tones to compliment the bulkier blend of white and yellow Cheddars.

    Those five cheeses combine to make a great flavor, but the blend would melt into a greasy mess if it weren’t for the assistance of one more ubiquitous cheese: American. The benefit of American cheese—which makes up for its lack of flavor—is found in the sodium citrate it contains. This natural sodium salt is an emulsifier that keeps the fat in the cheese from separating (and it also happens to be useful in preventing kidney stones!). By first melting several slices of American cheese in the milk, we don’t have to mess with making a roux and bechamel sauce to create a perfectly smooth cheese sauce.

    As for cooking the macaroni, here’s another secret: don’t follow the directions on the box for al dente pasta, because you don’t want the pasta to be al dente, or slightly tough. You want to cook the elbow macaroni for 20 minutes so that it absorbs as much water as possible. This will ensure that the pasta won’t suck up liquid in the cheese sauce and the sauce will maintain its perfectly creamy consistency.      

    If you like this copycat Chick-fil-A mac and cheese recipe, click here for more Chick-fil-A clone recipes.

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    Score: 4.60. Votes: 5

    The world's most famous theme restaurant pays tribute to the birthplace of Elvis Presley with this chicken finger appetizer dish, and two great mustard-based dipping sauces. I was a fan of the original version of this appetizer served around ten years ago before they changed the name to Tupelo Chicken Tenders and replaced the apricot dipping sauce with hickory barbecue sauce. With this recipe you can now re-create the classic original version.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 3

    Menu Description: "Lots of fresh ground beef and red kidney beans with a perfect blend of fresh Poblano & Chipotle peppers and plenty of seasoning. Topped with Cheddar cheese, diced red onions and tortilla strips. Not too hot, but enough flavor to know you ate it."

    Ah yes, nothing like a hot bowl of homemade chili on a cool day. Red Robin serves hot, chunky chili topped with cheddar cheese, onions and crunchy tortilla strips that'll warm your soul. The Top Secret Recipes hack here can be served up the same fashion, or you can use this chili as they do in the restaurant to top homemade nachos or an open-faced chili cheeseburger. If you're one of those who prefer a higher-octane, spicier chili, just use more canned chipotles, or add some of the delicious adobo sauce that's in the can with the chilies. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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