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Sandwiches

Nice work. You just found copycat 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. See if Todd has hacked your favorite sandwiches here. New recipes added every week.

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    The Sonic story starts back in 1953, when Troy Smith traded in his failing fried chicken stand in Shawnee, Oklahoma, for a parcel of land that had a steakhouse and a root beer stand on it. Troy thought he'd make the steakhouse his primary operation, but as it turned out, patrons preferred the hot dogs and cold drinks at the root beer stand. Troy dumped the steakhouse and focused on offering additional items at the stand such as hamburgers. Those hamburgers became the big seller at this revised restaurant, which Troy had dubbed the Top Hat. But that name would soon change when the Top Hat sign was replaced by one that read Sonic Drive-In.

    This is a lower-fat clone of that first hamburger, which has been on the menu since the beginning. We'll substitute lean ground beef and fat-free mayonnaise to shear off more than sixteen grams of fat.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 sandwich
    Total servings–1
    Calories–400 (Original–409)
    Fat–10.5g (Original–26.6g)

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

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    Here's an awesome kitchen clone for a selection off of Arby's 3-item "Light Menu." As other fast food chains were zigging by creating giant gooey burgers with fat grams in the 40-plus range, this 3,100-outlet roast beef sandwich chain opted to zag, offering a selection of scrumptious sandwiches with only 6 to 10 grams of fat each.

    The secret to recreating the special Arby's taste in the Roast Chicken Deluxe is the marinade. Let your chicken soak in it for several hours, or even overnight. It also helps if you have a meat slicer to get that paper-thin, deli-style cut to the chicken. If you don't have a slicer, do what I do. Use the "poor man's meat slicer," otherwise known as a very sharp knife and a steady hand. 

    Nutrition facts
    Serving size–1 sandwich 
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–201
    Fat per serving–6.5g

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

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    This quartet of chicken sliders made with dinner rolls has been on the theme eatery's menu since the first restaurant opened back in 1994. It was called Tortuga Tidbits back then, but as a restaurant spokesperson explains, "No one knew what a Tortuga Tidbit was...neither did we. So last year we changed the name to make it more descriptive of the menu item."

    For this low-fat conversion, we'll need to use the Top Secret Recipes hack of Rainforest Cafe Reggae Beat spice blend. The recipe is designed to make a rather unusual yield total of three sandwiches, since the dinner rolls come in packages of twelve.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 4-roll sandwich
    Total servings–3
    Calories per serving–768 (Original–863)
    Fat per serving–14g (Original–27g)

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

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    McDonald's introduced its new sandwich in 1996 with a $200 million marketing blitz aimed at winning over grown-ups. We watched Ronald McDonald golf, dance, and hang out with sophisticated human beings, rather than his usual gang of puppets. These messages were supposed to tug at the adult market lost to more inspired sandwich creations from chains like Wendy's and Arby's and Carl's Jr.

    Did the campaign work? So far, the sales figures have been less than stellar for the burger with even more fat in it than a Big Mac. But the sandwich, with its specially developed Dijon mustard-mayo sauce, does have its share of devoted fans. Perhaps even more of us would get on Team Arch Deluxe if we could make a clone using reduced-fat ingredients to knock the fat down to nearly one-third that of the original, as I have here.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 burger
    Total servings–1
    Calories per serving–430 (Original–550)
    Fat per serving–11g (Original–31g)

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

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    In the restaurant, these are made with red chili tortillas. Since those can be hard to find, especially in fat-free versions, well use plain flour fat-free tortillas. Except for the color, you can hardly tell the difference. You'll want to prepare several elements of this recipe ahead of time. The relish and slaw is best when made the day before, and the chicken will have to marinate for an hour or so before you grill it.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 wrap
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–515 (Original–644)
    Fat per serving–5g (Original–15g)

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

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    Helping Carl's Jr. rebound from its sales slump was a series of TV commercials featuring over sauced sandwiches that splattered ketchup and mayo onto floors, clothes, and shoes. The tag line, "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face," made sloppy synonymous with tasty.

    If you look forward to messing up your clean clothes but don't need all the saturated fat that usually comes with this drippy fare, you'll want to give this clone a try. The fat-free ranch dressing saves you from oodles of nasty fat grams, and then the special baking technique that clones the taste and texture of deep frying eliminates a bunch more.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 sandwich
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–660 (Original–720)
    Fat per serving–19g (Original–36g)

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

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    Eight weeks after the board of directors locked seventy-six-year old Carl Karcher out of his office in 1993, he was engineering a takeover of the "Happy Star" company that he had built over five decades. Crafty Carl found financier William P. Foley to assume his debts in exchange for stock and take control of the company as the new chairman of the board. Carl was named chairman emeritus and finally got his desk back. His plan to sell Mexican food at Carl's Jr. restaurants was later adopted and became a huge success for the chain, and almost all of the executives who had fired him have since left the company.

    Here's one of Carl's delicious sandwiches that we can clone with much fewer fat grams by using turkey bacon, fat-free mayonnaise, and fat-free Swiss cheese. These substitutions for full-fat ingredients can bring the fat down from twenty-nine grams to just over ten without compromising that distinctive Carl's Jr. taste.

    Nutrition Facts 
    Serving size–1 sandwich
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–366 (Original–570)
    Fat per serving–10.5g (Original–29g)

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

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    The 1980s were the beginning of tough times for one of the worlds largest burger chains. Carl Karcher had built the little hot-dog cart he purchased for $311 in 1941 into a successful West Coast hamburger chain 600 units strong; but his luck was about to change. Carl took his company public, then opened several Carl's Jr. restaurants in Texas. The bottom line for the Texas stores fell way below expectations, and the stock began to skid. In 1988 Carl was charged with insider trading for selling stock just before its price fell, and he paid almost $1 million in fines. When poor Southern California real estate investments left him million of dollars in debt, Carl was desperate to find a way out of the hole. He proposed to the board of directors that Carl's Jr. should sell Mexican food. The board voted to fire Carl instead, and the man with the vision was ousted from the very company he had founded.

    For this reduced-fat clone of an excellent chicken sandwich, well make the ranch dressing from scratch with fat-free ingredients. Then well use a special Top Secret Recipes baking technique of the fat we can't avoid when frying.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 sandwich
    Total Servings–4
    Calories–580 (Original–620)
    Fat–11g (Original–29g)

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

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    Visit the Bennigan's website and you'll find out that in the early 1900s, Irishman D. Bennigan came to the United States to work as a bartender with the dream of one day opening his own tavern. During the depression, Bennigan got his wish when he purchased an old, foreclosed bar; redecorated it, and opened the original Bennigan's Irish American Grill and tavern. The "Our Story" page also explains that today all Bennigan's restaurants still use elements from that original location such as the brass rails, period pictures, and memorabilia hanging from the walls. What the Web page won't tell you is that this history is entirely made up. You'll have to dig a little deeper to find out that Bennigan's actually started in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1976, and was, at that time, owned by Pillsbury.

    For this clone, well use a special technique developed in the secret underground test kitchen to prepare the chicken without frying. This will knock that fat down to just around one-third of the original.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 sandwich
    Total servings–1
    Fat per serving–512 (Original–1038)
    Calories per serving–9g (Original–27g)

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

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    Some call them "whitey one-bite." They're also known as "sliders," gut busters," and "belly bombers." The cooking technique is unique to the chain, because it involves steaming the ground beef patties. Minced onions are placed on the grill, with a beef patty on top. The steam from the grilling onions rises up through the five holes in each thin patty so that the beef is thoroughly cooked without having to flip it over.

    Now you can use the same method, but with reduced-fat ingredients, to cook a lower-fat version of one of the country's first chain burgers.

    Nutrition Facts

    Serving size–2 burgers
    Total servings–8
    Calories per serving–310 (Original–310)
    Fat per serving–5g (Original–17g)

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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