Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Restaurant Recipes

Chef Todd Wilbur has come out with "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2," the sequel to his best-selling first edition. Wilbur teaches the tricks to make restaurant favorites at home without waiting for the check.

Red Lobster's Parrot Bay Coconut Shrimp

The American seafood giant describes this savory dish as "jumbo butterflied shrimp hand-dipped in batter flavored with Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Rum and coconut flakes, and served with pina colada dipping sauce."

Sure -- if it's fried, it must be good, but fans of the dish say the best part is the pina colada dipping sauce. And it's true. That sauce is so good you could eat it with a spoon. However delicious, the coconut shrimp definitely jumps out from behind the shadows.

Red Lobster's secret formula includes Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay rum, which sweetens the batter and adds a great coconut flavor (plus you can whip up a nice cocktail with it while you're cooking, if that's your thing). Panko bread crumbs, which give a nice crunch to the batter, can be found in the aisle of supermarket where all the Asian foods are parked.

This secret recipe makes two times the size of a serving you get at Red Lobster, so there should be enough for everyone. The real thing comes with salsa on the side in addition to the pina colada sauce, but you may not even want to include it.

Ingredients

Pina Colada Dipping Sauce

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup pina colada mix (liquid)

¼ cup crushed pineapple (canned)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Shrimp

6 to 10 cups canola oil (amount required by fryer)

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about ½ pound)

1½ cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay coconut rum

1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

½ cup shredded coconut

Salsa, on the side

Directions

Prepare pina colada dipping sauce first by combining all the ingredients. Cover this and let it chill out in the fridge while you make the shrimp.

Heat oil to 350 degrees.

Measure ¾ cup of flour into a medium bowl. In another medium bowl mix together the remaining ¾ cup flour, sugar and salt. Stir milk and rum into flour mixture. Let this batter stand for 5 minutes. While the batter rests, combine panko bread crumbs and shredded coconut into a third medium bowl.

Butterfly cut each shrimp before you start the battering: Use a sharp knife to slice through the top of the shrimp (where the vein was) so that you can spread the shrimp open. Leave the tail intact.

To batter the shrimp, dip each one in the flour, then the wet batter, then coat each shrimp with the panko/coconut mixture. Arrange the shrimp on a plate until all of them are battered.

Fry the shrimp by dropping six at a time into the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp are golden brown. Remove shrimp to a rack or paper towel to drain.

Serve shrimp with pina colada dipping sauce on the side, along with a small dish of your favorite salsa, if you like.

Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer.

T.G.I. Friday's Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

Thank God boring salads are out! You can take a bed a greens from dull to decadent with this recipe. With pecan-crusted chicken, topped with mandarin oranges, sweet glazed pecans, celery, dried cranberries and blue cheese, all tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, you'll get a kick in the mouth without making a dent in your wallet.

Don't shy away from all the ingredients here. The dressing is a cakewalk, since you just pour everything (except the garlic) into a 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.

Ingredients

Pecan-Crusted Chicken

4 skinless chicken breast fillets

½ cup finely chopped pecans

½ cup corn flake crumbs

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup canola oil

Balsamic vinaigrette

1 cup canola oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

4 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

Salad

1 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

½ cup finely chopped pecans

12 cups copped romaine lettuce (2 heads)

1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)

2 11-ounce cans mandarin orange segments, drained

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

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 of 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 two hours.

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 a small bowl and mix in minced garlic. Chill this until you're ready to use it.

When you're ready to build your salads, toss lettuce and celery with about ¾ cup of the balsamic vinaigrette.

Arrange the lettuce on four plates, then sprinkle the cranberries over the lettuce (about ¼ cup per serving).

Combine the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar with ½ cup of finely chopped pecans. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of this mixture on each salad.

Sprinkle about ½ can of drained mandarin segments over each salad, followed by about 2 tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese.

Slice each fillet into thin strips. Arrange one sliced chicken fillet on top of each salad and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Applebee's White Chocolate and Walnut Blondie

Dare to indulge at home? Do it right with a warm, white chocolate and walnut blondie under a scoop of ice cream and chopped walnuts, dripping in sizzling maple butter sauce.

For Applebee's regulars, this is a hands-down favorite. In a hot skillet comes a delicious slice of white chocolate and walnut cake (it's similar to a brownie in texture) topped with a scoop of ice cream and warm maple butter sauce bubbling as it hits the pan. Commence with the salivating.

To re-create this pile of pleasure at home you start by making the cake from scratch. For the white chocolate, get a couple of 4-ounce bars or one 8-ounce bar and chop it into chunks. White chocolate chunks work best in this recipe, but you can certainly use white chocolate chips in a pinch. While the blondie cake is baking, whip up the sauce -- it will be fluffy at first. When you're ready to serve the dessert, zap the sauce in the microwave until it's hot and creamy. Arrange the decadence in a hot skillet and serve it sizzling to happy, drooling mouths.

Ingredients

Blondie

4 egg whites

½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

8 ounces white chocolate (cut into chunks)

½ cup chopped walnuts

Sauce

½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)

½ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

8 scoops vanilla ice cream

½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make the blondie cake whip the egg whites until they are stiff and form peaks. Add softened butter, ½ cup packed brown sugar, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and vanilla and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well until smooth. Mix in milk, white chocolate chunks, and walnuts. Pour ingredients into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake is golden brown on top. Slice cake into 8 equal slices when cool.

While cake bakes, combine all ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl with an electric mixer.

To prepare dessert, heat a small skillet on your stove over high heat for about 5 minutes. A cast-iron skillet is best. (You can also serve the dessert on a plate, but you'll miss out on the showy sizzle.) Arrange the cake in the center of the skillet or plate. Heat up the sauce for 30 to 60 seconds in the microwave until hot. Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the cake, then drizzle some of the sauce over the top, followed by a tablespoon of chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

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