After making a copycat of the Arch Deluxe burger from McDonald’s, I could not stop jonesin’ for a good version of my all-time favorite fast-food burger, the Quarter Pounder with cheese. Simple but tasty. Sure, I might have cheated a bit and actually made a Third Pounder cheese burger, but hey, that just means I had more yumminess! It wasn’t until after my teen years that I also became a fan of the Big Mac, which I’ve made at home several times. And now that I think about them, I’m going to have to make them again, and soon. Want an even bigger Big Mac? Try my Big Mac hoagies. Yep, that’s right, all the great flavors of a Big Mac on a big ole hoagie bun. Not into big Big Macs? My Big Mac sliders are perfect for a party.
I grilled up a few marinated chicken breast last week. I sliced them thin and began what I call ‘salad week’. That means big salads, lot of greens and good stuff on top, and homemade salad dressings. This copycat of the creamy Italian dressing from Pizza Hut was one of my favorite dressings of the week. It has a nice herby flavor with a hint of nutty Parmesan, and the kick of vinegar and citrus. Although it wouldn’t still be a copycat recipe, I wouldn’t hesitate to add a pinch or two of dried red pepper flake to this dressing. It’s great as is, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of kick in your creamy Italian dressing.
Green beans are in season, which means I usually grab a pound or so every few days at the grocery store. Although I often grill my green beans if I’m already outside grilling, this copycat Outback Steakhouse green bean recipe is a big favorite of ours. The beans take only a few minutes to make. You can also add carrots to these beans for a great twist on the restaurant classic. Just peel a few carrots and slice them thin. Put them into the boiling water for a minute or two before adding the beans so they all come out done and tender at the same time.
For another variation, and one with a little kick, toss in a few pinches (or more) of dried red pepper flake when you saute the beans.
Anita and were driving to Nashville, TN, when we passed a sign on the interstate for a Schlotsky’s. I instantly flashed back to the days when we had a Schlotsky’s near where I worked in Indianapolis. It was my favorite lunch spot. I so loved their bread. Sadly, it was early in the morning so the Schlotsky’s was closed. At that moment I went on a journey to recreate my favorite sandwich, Schlotsky’s The Original. This copycat is a fantastic copycat of the classic great sandwich, from the bread to the meats to the garlic dressing. It may look like it takes a lot of work and ingredients to make a copycat of the Schlotsky’s The Original, but it’s actually quite simple and the end result will more than reward your efforts. The key is the sourdough bread, which comes out light, airy, and full of air bubbles. It holds up perfectly to the ingredients, including my favorite, the garlic mayonnaise. I made a big squeeze bottle of the dressing and also find myself using it on burgers and wraps.
Strawberries are in season. I’ve been waiting for this moment to make this copycat of Panera’s strawberry poppy seed dressing. My patience was definitely rewarded. This could easily be my favorite dressing of all time. Smooth strawberry flavor with just a bit of sweetness. White balsamic vinegar, while not as cheap as the dark version, is more mellow and adds a great tang. I was curious what makes white balsamic vinegar more gentle than dark, so I Googled it. Turns out dark balsamic vinegar is aged for at least twelve years in barrels that have been fired and were previously used for other batches of balsamic vinegar. White balsamic vinegar, on the other hand, is aged at least twelve years in new barrels that have not been fired or used before. That explains the cleaner flavor! It’s perfect in this copycat Panera strawberry poppy seed dressing.
After I use up this batch of dressing (read: tonight), I think I’ll try the same recipe but using raspberries instead. Or peaches. I think this same approach could work well with any good in-season fruit.
This copycat Boston Market Tuscan Herb chicken is exactly why I bought my Char-Broil Big Easy: crazy good chicken. Sure, I cook a lot of things on my Big Easy (well, Big Easys actually, since I have 3), but it cooks poultry like you’ve never had. Perfect every time and easy as you can possibly get. These split chicken breasts were packed with herb flavor, and had the most insanely crunchy tasty skin you’ve ever had. And oh so moist meat. This may be the best chicken I’ve ever made.
You can use skin-less chicken breasts if you prefer, just rub the herb mixture over the meat. The original recipe was for a whole chicken, which you could also do, but make sure you check the meat temperatures in several places before removing the full bird from the cooker. I prefer split chicken breasts for the simplicity of cooking and carving.
We both really enjoyed this copycat version of Applebee’s Clubhouse Grill sandwich. I had plenty of smoked turkey on hand after smoking a few turkey breasts. The light smoke flavor of the very tender turkey, along with gooey cheese and the best part, a bit of smokey BBQ sauce, really made for a great sandwich. It’s like a grownup take on a grilled cheese. Any ‘plain’ sandwich can have that little extra something just by adding a bit of BBQ sauce to it. Not a lot, you’re not making a pulled pork sandwich. But just enough so you know it is there. You’ll remember it more than just a sandwich just say, mayonnaise.
My first experience at Tony Roma’s was in Salt Lake City, Utah, many, many years ago. I instantly fell in love with their ribs. When I later moved to Indianapolis there was a Tony Roma’s just a few blocks from where I lived. Ribs, ribs, ribs. I think Tony Roma’s started my love of ribs. I make them often at home on my own smoker. I have to because Tony Roma’s closed here 10 or so years ago.
This copycat of Tony Roma’s Blue Ridge Smokies sauce is fantastic. It has some of your ‘standard’ BBQ sauce ingredients, such as ketchup and liquid smoke. That’s not what made it so special to me. It’s the red wine vinegar. The vinegar really adds a nice edge to the sauce. It’s like a nice combination of a KC BBQ sauce with a little North Carolina vinegar-based sauce. I rubbed a rack of ribs down with a copycat Famous Dave’s rib rub, let it get happy overnight, then tossed the ribs onto my Weber Smokey Mountain for 6 hours, saucing them in the last 30 minutes. The end result was tender, tasty, and finger-licking amazing.
If you don’t like liquid smoke, substitute smoked salt and leave out the Kosher salt.