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Mar 16, 2011 09:46 AM

For All You Chain Haters...Secret Copy Cat Recipes...

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  1. Maybe I'm missing the irony here, but why would I spend money to get a book of recipes for things served at places like Applebee's and Olive Garden? To burn it?

    Plus - a warning to those at work: when you click on that link, a loud obnoxious voice starts up a couple of seconds later telling you why it's such a wonderful book to buy ("as seen on TV!")

    19 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      I'm just giving you another thread to to voice your displeasure with fairness though, there are other restaurants in the book copied other than the only two you mentioned. For those who like chains, there may some interest and value.

      1. re: BobB

        Bob Evans? Cracker Barrel? PF Changs? Applebees? Red Lobster? Golden Corral?


        1. re: C. Hamster

          Just think of the book like we think of Rachel Ray...the gateway drug to good cooking. I grew up in a household where no one cooked and if my friend's mother's did, it was out of a box and I thought it was homemade.

          When I was about 19 I purchased a copy of one of those books in a used bookstore specifically to copycat Hooter's wings. :) And that was my gateway drug to cooking for myself, so I look upon it with affection.

          1. re: sommrluv

            Funny! I bought a copy cat book when I was in my 20's for the KFC chicken recipe :)
            I still use it too, nothing beats the thrill and danger of pressure cooking chicken in hot oil -and there is no way to pan fry chicken to fall off the bone and be that tender!

            My kids beg for it mid summer.

            1. re: sedimental

              I'm way to wussy to try pressure frying. Hat's off! LOL

              1. re: sommrluv


                I've been resisting a pressure cooker because I don't need any more kitchen toys. But pressurized deep frying? Now I'm excited. I've avoided deep frying because of the mess. The thought that I can have a new toy and add another technique to the arsenal?

                I think this now deserves it's own thread.

                1. re: tomishungry

                  It's incredibly dangerous to fry in a regular pressure cooker.

                  You need to make sure yours is capable of frying before you try it.

            2. re: sommrluv

              "Just think of the book like we think of Rachel Ray...the gateway drug to good cooking. I grew up in a household where no one cooked and if my friend's mother's did, it was out of a box and I thought it was homemade."

              RR and Molto Mario truly taught me how to cook. Like you, no one cooked in my house and further, it was actively discouraged - why cook when we could go out? After I got married, I would watch Foodnetwork when I came home from work and one day decided cooking didn't look that hard. The rest is history!

              1. re: cleobeach

                Same thing with Rachel Ray for me. Yes, she's a tad bit perky for me, but after I graduated from college, I would order a pizza or something and watch her shows. I loved how easy she made it look and would just eyeball measurements. I cook homemade meals from scratch now all the time, mostly making up my own recipe ideas, and RR was a gateway for me.

                1. re: cleobeach

                  Exactly! Why cook when we could go out must have been a bumper sticker on my mother's car.

                  Now I think, save a few exceptions, why go out when I could cook?

                  1. re: sommrluv

                    I hear you. I have a rule about eating out - it has to be cheaper and faster than what I cook at home or it has to be better than I could cook myself.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      Cheaper is relative to perception, or actual cost and clean up in my book. To give you a couple of examples.....Pizza or Fried Chicken. Can both be made cheaper at home, yes. Can both be made better at home, yes. Is it worth it? I'd say yes for pizza, but not for the chicken. In my area, the average cost of a pizza is between $13-14.....some places as high as $18. this is for a take-out pie. The actual cost at home just for the ingredients are probably $5 or less. As for the chicken, the cost of flour, seasonings and chicken probably cost the same $5 or less.....but when you factor in the oil needed to fry and the clean up's not so attractive for me to make at home. Thankfully, I have Popeye's available for my fried chicken fix.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Oh my word I love Popeye's. It's my only fast food weakness. The closest one is 30 miles, but when we go downtown (philadelphia) we get off the highway early and grab a bucket and eat it for a week. LOL. It's an annual weakness.

                        I agree with Cleo about the's springtime here in the country and that usually means a mouse in the house here. After I found offending signs in the kitchen I scoured the whole thing until it shone yesterday, and than looked at my husband and said..."So, Chinese or cheesesteaks?".

                        1. re: sommrluv

                          Sorry to tell you this now after the fact......but yesterday they had their national *Pay Day* 8-Piece Promotion for $4.99. In the past, people have been known to get a little crazy.....especially when they ran out of chicken.



                2. re: C. Hamster

                  if it can teach me to make a homemade version of:
                  bob evans sausage gravy
                  cracker barrels chicken and dumplins
                  pf changs mongo beef and chicken lettuce wraps
                  red lobsters cheddar biscuits
                  golden corrals.....?

                  then id be happy

                  1. re: mattstolz

                    I think it does have a biscuit recipe. Really, any biscuit recipe will work...the big difference is adding 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar to the batter, spraying the sheet, and when they come out, brush them with a mixture of melted butter and garlic. I like to put chives in them, and brush them with the same oil/butter herbed mixture you would use for a scampi. They taste identical.

                    1. re: sommrluv

                      well... i am on my way to happiness then

                    2. re: mattstolz

                      mattstolz: the recipes for copycats of RL's Cheddar Bay biscuits, Mongolian Beef and Lettuce Wraps at PF Chang's are all available online. Just google Cheddar Bay, and PF Chang's, and you'll get a dozen hits. Can't speak for the other places, but this is a starting point to your eternal happy place. Enjoy.

                3. I don't have any interest in cooking Olive Garden or Red Lobster classics, but I would actually find that book fascinating if it provided the real recipes exactly as the chains make them (complete with emulsifiers and thickeners and preservatives). But I'm sure this is just a bunch of 'close enough' reconstructions written for mediocre home cooks, which is a bummer.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    A few months ago, I would have said exactly the same thing. But then I went on a search for pasta fagioli that resembled that served at Olive Garden. I located this recipe and found it makes an incredible soup. I use my own homemade pasta sauce for the sauce called for in the recipe. Try it -- it's amazing!

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      Ground beef in a pasta e fagioli? My brain just exploded.

                      1. re: melo7

                        *LAUGH* Is that sacrilegious? sprinkling grated cheese on pasta with seafood?

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          It'd be like ordering matzoh ball soup and getting tomatoes in the soup. Just not right.

                          1. re: melo7

                            Maybe it's all in the name. Rather than calling it "pasta e fagioli," call it "hearty vegetable with beef soup." Mangia!

                          2. re: CindyJ

                            i will defend the judicious use of cheese with some seafood until i die.

                            grandma pelligrino is rollin in her grave right now but im sorry grandma it can be good!

                            1. re: mattstolz

                              I hear yeah!

                              I can still taste the shrimp and scallop scampi with homemade pasta, sprinkled with cheese, from our favorite date place.

                            2. re: CindyJ

                              Linguini (or buccatini) with white clam sauce is another case where a bit of cheese sprinkled over it works beautifully. Most Italians I know eat it that way as well.

                          3. re: CindyJ

                            There are a few sauces and dressings I enjoy, "as created by" Chain restaurants. One would be the KFC coleslaw clone; another off the top is the ginger salad dressing from Benihana (and every other Japanese "Steakhouse.) I had good luck with one of those books. Wouldn't use it for much else, since I don't particularly want to know how to craft a "Moon over My-Hammy" sandwich (a la Denny's) but it was helpful in a few instances.

                            1. re: mamachef

                              I made tons of KFC coleslaw (and other sides) as a youth in first job. The stories aren't pretty.

                              But back then we made the vegetation part fresh every day and mixed it with the sauce that came from HQ.

                              1. re: mamachef

                                another off the top is the ginger salad dressing from Benihana (and every other Japanese "Steakhouse.)

                                Yep, I could drink that stuff. I absolutely love it.

                                1. re: cleobeach

                                  Cleobeach, if you make a recipe of it and then pour it over thinly shredded cabbage and top it off with a good handful of toasted sesame seeds, weight it with a plate and refrigerate it for a day or so........heavenly. I'd wash my hair with that stuff.
                                  I also like to shred iceberg and thinly slice cukes, and drench it....granted the greens are just a vehicle for the dressing, but what a nice vehicle!

                                    1. re: cleobeach

                                      Sure do, cleobeach, and will post it before tomorrow a.m.

                                      1. re: cleobeach

                                        Cleobeach, here's the recipe.
                                        Ginger Dressing
                                        1/2 c. minced onion
                                        1/2 c. peanut oil
                                        1/3 c. rice vinegar
                                        2 T water
                                        2 T fresh minced ginger
                                        2 T fresh minced celery
                                        2 T ketchup
                                        4 ts. soy sauce
                                        2 ts. sugar
                                        2 ts. lemon juice
                                        1/2 ts. minced garlic
                                        1/2 ts. salt
                                        1/4 ts. black pepper
                                        Blend in blender until emulsified; enjoy.

                                        1. re: mamachef

                                          thank you, thank you! I am chaning this week's menu just to incorporate this.

                                          1. re: mamachef

                                            wow...that Ginger Dressing actually looks pretty good.

                                            I think that a dash or two of sesame oil might even enhance it.
                                            Gonna whip up a batch tomorrow!

                              2. While I'm not particularly interested, I do like some of the sauces at chain restaurants. If you have kids, it would be fun for them to have home made foods from the restaurants that they probably want to go to, even if you don't.

                                1. I love to look at "copy cat" sites and I often find really great recipes to use or tweak. Most of the time, the recipes are better when made at home using fresher ingredients (or better quality) and better technique.

                                  I love it when my foodie friends rave over something....and I tell them where it's from. The look on their face is priceless.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    To use the AOL shortcut, +10 !!

                                    There is nothing wrong with recreating the flavor of selective chain resto dishes. In fact, reverse engineering them back to their preprocessed roots could be good for training the taste buds of tomorrow ...
                                    OTOH I will rail against perversions of a traditional cuisine like Taco Hell (and surprisingly, Chipotle) until I die. Corporate chains rarely change their formula except to hit a lower common denominator, so best to vote with your pocketbook and shun them. /rant

                                  2. Funny, I don't eat at many chain foods restaurants but I have at one time or another when I was working and mostly because I had limited time for lunch. I developed quite a liking for Chili's chicken enchilada soup, Chilis wraps, and their chicken fried chicken, Max's Diner's Matzoh Ball Soup and their salads. That's just a few. Rubios, I had an obsession with 360 burritos green salsa- crazy good, and Rubio's HOT salsa, so much I learned to make the salsas. I also make a better than Starbucks scone, used there scone as my proto-type. Whatever the case may be, I've seen many requests on CH for Ruth Chris's stuffed chicken breasts, or some other restaurant's creamed spinach. In that regard, I think some people might find the book helpful, I can't knock that.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      Ohhhhh, my hubby would be thrilled if you would share the Rubio salsa recipe. I've tried numerous versions on my own, and just can't get it right (we love the hot one, chipotle and the tomatillo).

                                      1. re: pine time

                                        Okay first I too thought it was make with chipotles, well it is and isn't since a chipotle is a toasted/ smokey chile, but its packed in that vinager sauce. Surpised you didn't find this link, it's here already.
                                        Remember to taste, don't be so exact that you can't rely on your own taste buds. Like most salsa they get better as they sit, the next day its killer.
                                        I don't know who to make the tomatillo one yet, should work on that too huh?
                                        here it is Let me know if you have any questions, sharon

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            Wow, does look simple, and I never would have thought those were the ingredients--will give it a try tomorrow (we're having burritos, so perfect timing). Thanks!