Longing to have your favorite restaurant dish, but don't want to live your kitchen?
Todd Wilbur, author of "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes," shares the secrets:
• Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits
(Makes 12 biscuits)
Order an entrée from America’s largest seafood restaurant chain and you’ll get a basket of some of the planet’s tastiest garlic cheese biscuits served up on the side. For many years this recipe has been the most-searched-for clone recipe on the Internet, according to red Lobster. As a result, several versions are floating around, including one that was at one time printed right in the box of Bisquick baking mix.
The problem with making biscuits using Bisquick is that if you follow the directions from the box you don’t end up with a very fluffy or flakey finished product, since most of the fat in the recipe comes from the shortening that’s included in the mix. On its own, room temperature shortening does a poor job creating the light, airy texture you want from good biscuits, and it contributes little in the way of flavor. So, we’ll invite some cold butter along on the trip-with grated Cheddar cheese and a little garlic powder. Now you’ll be well on your way to delicious Cheddar Bay… wherever that is.
2 ½ cups Bisquick baking mix
¾ cup cold whole milk
4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping cup grated Cheddar cheese
Brush on Top:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a large fork. You don’t want to mix too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter in there that are about the size of peas. Add Cheddar cheese, milk, and ¼ teaspoon garlic. Mix by hand until combined, but don’t over mix.
3. Drop approximately ¼-cup portions of the dough onto an un-greased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.
4. When you take the biscuits out of the oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in ½ teaspoon garlic powder and the dried parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the butter.
• Chili’s Salsa
This super simple salsa can be made in a pinch with a can of diced tomatoes, some canned jalapenos, fresh lime juice, onion, spices and a food processor (or blender). Plus you can easily double the recipe by sending in a larger 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, and simply doubling up on all the other ingredients. Use this versatile salsa as a dip for tortilla chips or plop it down onto any dish that needs flavor assistance-from eggs to taco salads to wraps to fish-for that extra special restaurant-style zing. You can adjust the heat level to suit your taste by tweaking the amount of canned jalapenos in the mix.
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons canned diced jalapenos
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup diced Spanish onion
1. Combine diced tomatoes, jalapenos, lime juice and spices in a food processor. Run food processor on high speed for just a few moments until the tomatoes have been nearly pureed, yet still chunky. The jalapenos should be chopped into visible minced bits. Be careful not to over-process.
2. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the sliced onion. Stir well, cover and store overnight for the flavors to properly develop.
• Olive Garden's Lemon Cream Cake
I like simple. So, to keep this clone as uncomplicated as possible, I’ve designed the recipe using a common white cake mix. I picked Betty Crocker brand, but any white cake mix you can get your hands on will do. Just note that each brand (Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, etc.) requires slightly different measurements of additional ingredients (oil, eggs). Follow the directions on the box for mixing the batter, then pour it into a greased 10-inch spring-form pan and bake until done. The filling recipe is a no-brainer and the crumb topping is a cinch. When your cake is assembled, stick it in the fridge for a few hours, and soon you’ll be serving up 12 cloned slices of the addictive Olive Garden dessert.
1 18.25-ounce box Betty Crocker white cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups water
3 egg whites
Lemon Cream Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Vanilla Crumb Topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cold butter
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Make white cake following the directions on the box. Pour batter into a greased 10-inch cake pan or spring-form pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Allow cake to cool completely when it comes out of the oven.
2. Make lemon cream filling by mixing cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in lemon juice.
3. Whip cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until forms stiff peaks. Fold cream cheese mixture with whipped cream. Stir gently by hand until blended.
4. Make crumb topping by combining flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Add butter and dribble in the vanilla extract. Use your hands to mix cold butter into flour and sugar. Break butter into smaller and smaller pieces as you incorporate it into the dry ingredients. Be sure not to press the mixture together. You want to end up with a very crumbly consistency with pieces no bigger than a pea. (If you have trouble making small crumbs, pop the bowl into your fridge for a few minutes.) Chill this crumb topping until you are ready to use it.
5. When the cake is cool, slice it in half through the middle and remove the top. Spread all but ½ cup of the lemon cream mixture onto the bottom half of the cake, then carefully replace the top half of the cake.
6. Spread the remaining ½ cup of cream filling over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the cake and press it onto the sides all the way around the cake.
7. Now chill the cake for at least 3 hours before you serve it. When you are ready to dig in, slice cake into 12 slices. Serve each slice topped with powdered sugar tapped through a strainer.
• TGI Friday’s Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad
(Makes 4 servings)
With dried cranberries, mandarin orange wedges, bleu cheese, pecan-crusted chicken breast, and a delicious sweet and sour balsamic vinaigrette, it’s no wonder this salad is the top pick at one of America’s first casual dining chains. And don’t be intimidated by all the ingredients here. The dressing is a cakewalk since you just pour everything (except the garlic) into the blender. The pecan-crusted chicken is a simple breading procedure, and the chicken cooks up in a snap. You’ll be spending most of your time at the chopping block as you hack pecans into little pieces and get the lettuce, garlic and celery ready. I’ve made this recipe to serve four, but if there are only two of you, you can easily cut it in half.
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
1 cup milk
½ cup finely chopped pecans
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup corn flake crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup canola oil
1 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 11-ounce cans mandarin orange segments, drained
½ cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup crumbled bleu cheese
12 cups chopped romaine lettuce (2 heads)
1. We’ll make the pecan-crusted chicken first since it is served cold. Pound each chicken fillet to about ½-inch thick. You can do this easily by covering each chicken breast in plastic wrap, and pounding away with a kitchen mallet. Combine ½ cup finely chopped pecans, corn flake crumbs and ¾ teaspoon salt in a shallow bowl. Combine milk with beaten eggs in another shallow bowl. Dump the flour into another shallow bowl. Bread each chicken breast by coating each with flour. Dip the flour-dusted chicken into the egg mixture, and then coat the chicken with a thick coating of the pecans and corn flake crumbs. Preheat ½ cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium/low heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the chicken fillets for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Cool chicken on a rack or paper towels. When you can handle the chicken, cover it and refrigerate for at least to hours.
2. As the chicken chills, you can make the balsamic vinaigrette by combining 1 cup canola oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon salt in a blender. Blend on low speed for just a few seconds, or until the dressing begins to thicken. Don’t blend too long or your vinaigrette will get too thick, like mayonnaise. Pour vinaigrette into small bowl and mix in minced garlic. Chill this until you’re ready to use it.
3. When you’re ready to build your salads, toss lettuce and celery with about ¾ cup of the balsamic vinaigrette.
4. Arrange the lettuce on four plates, then sprinkle the cranberries over the lettuce (about ¼ cup per serving).
5. Combine the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar with ½ cup finely chopped pecans. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of this mixture on each salad.
6. Sprinkle about ½ can of drained mandarin segments over each salad, followed about 2 tablespoons of crumbled bleu cheese.
7. Sliced each chicken fillet into thin strips. Arrange one sliced chicken fillet on top of each salad and serve.
— For more information, visit: www.topsecretrecipes.com