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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Here's a hack for a new menu item at Tony Roma's that's served alongside the Carolina Honeys BBQ Salmon. Combine maple syrup, cinnamon and pecans with sweet potatoes and you've got an irresistible side dish just like the popular restaurant side.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 6

    Panera Bread's Baked Spinach and Artichoke Egg Souffle reminds me of a breakfast Hot Pocket, if a Hot Pocket tasted really good. With eggs, cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts baked into a buttery crust, this super-cool presentation will earn you big bonus points from your crew in the a.m. And the best part about this copycat Panera spinach souffle recipe is you won't stress out over making the dough from scratch since you use premade Pillsbury Crescent Dough that comes in a tube. Just be sure when you unroll the dough that you don't separate it into triangles. Instead, pinch the dough together along the diagonal perforations to make four squares. After the dough is rolled out, line four buttered ramekins with each square, fill each ramekin with the secret egg mixture, and bake. 

    Find more of your favorite recipes from Panera Bread here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.40. Votes: 10

    This popular pick from Boston Market may be called a side dish, but it tastes more like dessert. With the brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in there, and the oatmeal streusel on top, you will be reminded of sweet potato pie; yet the dish goes great alongside meals as varied as low-key chicken dinners or bigger-key holiday banquets. And the great part is, if you're planning to use this for entertaining, you can make everything but the streusel a day ahead so you won't be stressed at crunch time. Just cover the filled baking dish and pop it in the fridge. Take it out a few hours before you plan to bake it so the casserole can come close to room temperature, then you simply top it off with your streusel and pop the whole thing in the oven.

    Check out my other clone recipes for Boston Market favorites here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.55. Votes: 11

    Sweet potatoes are not related to the more common russet potatoes and are often confused with yams in the grocery store and on menus (the yam is actually starchier and less flavorful). Just be sure you're buying sweet potatoes when you get to the produce section—even the produce stockers get mixed up. Bake these up, and when you spoon on some butter and sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the top, you've got a treat that tastes more like dessert than a side dish.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.43. Votes: 7

    Joe's Stone Crab knows how to make mashed potatoes special. Chunks of fontina cheese are mixed into these creamy potatoes, and the dish comes to your table with a golden crust of crispy asiago breadcrumbs. The secret blend of panko breadcrumbs, butter and shredded asiago cheese is patted down onto the potatoes, and then the whole dish is broiled until the top is golden brown.

    Oooh, now what's for dinner? Find more of your favorite famous entrées here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy 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’s ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth my soup would be lacking some important flavor components, 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 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 would provide 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 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 peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just give it water and a little patience.

    Find more of your favorite Panera Bread recipes here

     

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Spinach dips are a great finger food appetizer and just about every chain has its own version, but Cheddar's has one of the best in the business with a unique, slightly spicy southwestern twist. Four different kinds of cheese are used in this recipe: three are blended into the spinach, then mozzarella is melted over the top just before serving.

    And for speed, we’ll use a microwave oven to quickly defrost the box of frozen spinach so that you’ll have a delish spinach dip on the table in just 20 minutes.

    This way to more cool copycats from Cheddar's.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    The weather’s cooler, the days are shorter, and pumpkin spice lattes are back in style. When fall arrives, it brings with it the traditional edibles we have come to expect. Usually, that’s something warm and/or orange and/or with squash in it. Panera’s top fall-release soup is all of the above. And its great taste inspired this new hack.

    On Panera’s ingredients statement for this soup, there is no specification for which types of squash are used. The ingredients mention only “squash,” so it’s possible there is more than one type of squash in it. Butternut squash has a great taste and rich orange color, so that’s an obvious choice, but I am also adding another flavorful squash to our pot: acorn squash. Its flesh is golden in color and tastes like pumpkin, but it’s sweeter and more buttery. I found the blended color and flavor from the combination of both butternut squash and acorn squash worked perfectly here.

    The flavor of the soup is created with several spices including cinnamon, curry, and cardamom, plus ginger puree, honey, apple juice, and Neufchatel cheese. Just a little cream at the end gives the soup body and a smooth richness you will love.

    When the soup is thick, serve it hot with freshly toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top, and taste the season.

    Want more awesome Panera Bread recipes? See if I hacked your favorite here

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    “Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.

    One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.

    Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.

    While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your clone you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.

    For this recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.

    Get more of my KFC copycat recipes here.

     

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    Score: 4.83. Votes: 6

    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 award-winning hard cheese from Wisconsin called BellaVitano. The BellaVitano cheese adds a subtle nuttiness to the mix and all three hard cheeses contribute big umami flavor that nicely complements the blend of white and yellow cheddars.

    Those five kinds of cheese 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 need to make a roux 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 when they are combined, and the sauce will maintain a 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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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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