I blogged about this topic briefly in passing, but now I think it’s deserves it’s own post. A while back, I got the book Top Secret Restaurant Recipes: Creating Kitchen Clones from America’s Favorite Restaurant Chains by Todd Wilbur (also available at Amazon.de) and it’s follow-up Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2. It’s been nine months now and I’ve got to credit these books with getting rid of a lot of my homesickness for the US. On my recent visit, I wasn’t even all that excited about going out to eat. I was just as happy to stay in and cook for my family, which is a big change, cause on previous trips I was all about getting to my favorite restaurants as many times as possible. Sure, not all my favorite dishes are in these books, and it only covers big chains, but for folks missing eating out in the US (expats and budget-conscience Americans alike), I’d say these books are a must-have.
This evening, we enjoyed Macaroni Grill’s Penne Rustica (recipe in the 2nd book), only better. Imagine being able to tweak the restaurant recipes just for your taste. Think there should be sausage in there? Go for it. Not only that, but European expats will often be cooking with better basic ingredients, like European butter, cream and eggs. So far, I’ve been pretty happy with everything I made, well, maybe except for the Hooters Pasta Salad, that was pretty boring. The Red Robin Burger was great, as was the Benihana Mandarin Cheesecake and the Cheesecake Factory Original Cheesecake. An borrowed the books and made some delicious California Pizza Kitchen pizzas, and we can’t get enough of the Shoney’s Slow-Cooked Pot Roast. We’ve enjoyed Tony Roma’s Ribs and Outback Steakhouse’s Blue Cheese Dressing. Oh, and I almost forgot Big Boy’s Cream of Broccoli Soup, that was delish!
A disclaimer, these aren’t the actual recipes, but rather clones created by the author. You can get his recipes off of his website (a few are free, most are for a fee) and check out some of his other books, like on cloning various drinks and three books from his Top Secret Recipes series that cover things like Big Macs and Bisquick mix.
His recipes are pretty easy to follow, the only downside is that he sometimes uses convenience products, like cake mix or Bisquick (like in the Red Lobster Garlic-Cheddar Biscuits recipe). Fellow expats will just have to be creative here. When he calls for Cool Whip, I just whip some cream and add that, tastes way better that way anyway.