G’Day, sandwich enthusiast! According to google and wikipedia, Alice Springs is a remote town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Home to 25,000+ mates and ZERO Outback Steakhouses, Alice Springs is located right around the middle of the country.
Alice Springs also happens to be a chicken dish on the very beef heavy Outback Steakhouse menu. I first encountered this dish back in the 90s when I frequented chain restaurants a bit more than I do today. My wife (then girlfriend) and I were both fans of Alice Springs chicken and we even bought a cookbook that had a copycat recipe for it.
The copycat cookbook
In 1997 “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes” by Todd Wilbur was released. This is the first cookbook I had seen at that time that showcased “copycat” recipes. The cookbook had many recipes that attempted to duplicate flavors of existing dishes from chain restaurants. Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback and Red Lobster are just a few of the restaurants that were showcased in the cookbook. As late-20-something, novice cooks, we tackled the Alice Springs chicken recipe from this book and my memories are of us enjoying it a lot and the result being very similar to the actual restaurant menu item.
When writing this blog post, I dug through some old boxes and found my copy of the cookbook and compared it to the MANY Alice Springs chicken copycat recipes on the internet. Spoiler alert: almost all of them are very close to the same recipe from this book.
Looking back on it I realize why this recipe is easy to copycat correctly and why so many online recipes are so similar. It’s because it’s an easy entrée. Alice Springs chicken is grilled chicken marinated in honey mustard, with cooked mushrooms and bacon on top and then you melt cheese on it. Very few ingredients and easy to put together.
If you’re handy in the kitchen, the hardest part of the recipe is getting your ingredients together to make the honey mustard sauce/marinade. If you wanted to cut some corners, you could even buy honey mustard dressing off the shelf and it would work.
Once you have the honey mustard marinade your next steps are grilling chicken, cooking bacon, cooking mushrooms and then layering everything and sticking it all in the oven for a few minutes. If you were having a dinner party, you could technically cook your chicken, bacon and mushrooms hours before you planned to eat and assemble the dish in a baking pan and bake right before serving. This would leave you lots of time to enjoy the company of your guests and talk to them about how cool my blog is.
Reheating tip: because this dish is finished in the oven to get the cheese melty, it makes it super easy to reheat as well. Just pre-heat your oven to 350 F and cook a leftover Alice Springs chicken stack for 8 to 10 minutes and you’re all set. If you’re cooking Alice Springs for one or two people, you could even refrigerate all the parts (cooked mushrooms, bacon, chicken) separately and assemble, covering with cheese when you’re ready to cook them.
The Alice Springs chicken
Here’s a photo of our finished Alice Springs chicken. My recipe (down below) differs from most of the online recipes you’ll find because it uses my wife’s favorite honey mustard recipe as the base for the marinade.
Below is a slideshow of my Alice Springs building action. As I was saying above, if you have all the pieces, but only need two servings per night, you can store the cooked components in the fridge and bake just what you need per night.
I could have served up an Alice Springs chicken sandwich on any type of bread. But I decided to make a sandwich with bread that I remember from Outback Steakhouse.
When you eat at Outback, they bring you a very dark bread with a big knife to munch on before your meal. I haven’t eaten it in many years, but I remember it being somewhat dense and sweet and great with a little butter spread on top.
If you search King Arthur Baking’s website for “outback,” you get nothing. But if you search google for “King Arthur’s outback bread” you get their recipe for Honey Wheat Black Bread which is clearly a very similar recipe to the bread you find at Outback Steakhouse. This is the recipe I used.
I had to order some Black Cocoa Powder from Amazon, but everything else was ingredients I had on hand or could pick up at my grocery store. The black cocoa powder is different from regular cocoa powder, and it is supposed to help with the dark color. I haven’t tried this recipe without it, but I might do that soon to see if it makes much of a difference.
I can taste hints of cocoa in the bread. It makes me think of a very dark chocolate brownie in some ways.
This bread is fantastic for snacking or to accompany a meal. I would certainly suggest trying this recipe if you’re a baker looking for something new to bake.
I baked both round buns and 5-inch-long rolls with the same recipe. Let us slice up one of the round buns and get down to sandwich action.
The other copycat book
After I had already photographed all these sandwiches and written this whole sandwich blog post, I found the original Top Secret Restaurant Recipes cookbook in a box in my garage and then I decided to buy the second one. Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 was published in 2007 and has a recipe for the Outback Bread which is VERY different than the King Arthur recipe that I used.
The recipe from the 2007 book uses blue, yellow and red food coloring to get the darkness instead of the black cocoa that I bought. There are other recipes online for this bread and many of those use food coloring too, but most seem to call for caramel food coloring. I’m guessing that things like black cocoa and caramel food coloring just weren’t as readily available as they are now.
Here we go, it’s sandwich time.
- Take some Alice Springs chicken and put it between buns or bread
- Add extra honey mustard as needed
- Eat and enjoy
Hopefully Australia won’t try to Boot me for this one.
Alice Springs chicken is easy and super tasty. Honey mustard coated grilled chicken, bacon, mushrooms all covered in melted cheese is fantastic.
Earlier I wrote about how you can turn this dish into a fast-to-prepare dinner party recipe. And I also wrote and showed you how you can turn it into a sandwich. I think my work is done here. Add it to your list of dishes to make for a quick weeknight dinner and maybe put the leftovers on a bun. Check back next week when I pit one sandwich against the same sandwich somehow.