Open-faced pizza sandwich

The Poor Man’s Pizza is an excellent sandwich.


wtf where are the triangle pepperoni!? Spoiler: these are all cut in triangles but not separated. I separated them and fixed it.

A man named, Bob Petrillose, invented a sandwich that he named the Poor Man’s Pizza in 1960 before restaurant delivery was really a thing. According to an article at Serious Eats, the Hot Truck at Cornell University was the home of the PMP or Poor Man’s Pizza which was two halves of French bread with sauce and melted cheese turned into a sandwich. Petrillose started his Hot Truck in the 60’s and ran it for 4 decades, working late nights to satiate the college students at Cornell.

Petrillose was not only the inventor of a fantastic sandwich, but he was apparently also an incredible person. This article from Cornell’s quarterly magazine in 2009 memorializes his death with very touching tributes from many students during his 40-year career selling sandwiches from his food truck.

The internet claims that Petrillose’s French bread pizza concept was licensed to Stouffer’s. Because of this, I figured I’d pay tribute to the inventor of French bread pizza by making Poor Man’s Pizza sandwiches and document the process with recipes.

According to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled article), Stouffer’s started putting their French Bread pizzas in the freezer aisle in 1974. Guess who else was born in 1974? GUESS!?

“Back to the Taste You Love.”
Seems like there must have been some New-Coke-style drama with the pepperoni at some point.

Petrillose’s Hot Truck is now permanently closed, so none of us can try a Poor Man’s Pizza from the source, but we can certainly make something similar at home.

We should talk about that, but first I want to revisit the French bread pizza that you can buy at the store.

The Stouffer’s French bread pizzas

I wanted to relive my history with the French bread pizza, so I bought some and baked them and imagined living in a cramped college apartment. These taste just like I remember. Each pizza is way hotter than you’d think, with extra crunchy edges and a super soft and cheesy center. The middle part of the bread, under the sauce and cheese gets a bit soggy and that sogginess along with the super crunchy and crispy sides gives you a lot of fun textures to enjoy.

I asked the only person I know who is basically some sort of pizza genius what he thought about French bread pizzas and he had this to say:

“I have a super soft spot for French bread and bagel and tortilla pizza in all its MacGuyvered forms” … “it’s a real opportunity to heighten the textural element. Pizza’s big and soft and comforting in the form most people are familiar with. Messing around with texture can heighten a lot of the experience.”

John Carruthers – Crust Fund Pizza

Check out John’s community focused pizza project, Crust Fund Pizza. And you can still buy one of his fantastic pizza cookbooks he created for charity: Pizza for Everyone.

These are Stouffer’s French bread pizzas, just like you might remember them, baked according to the directions. The crispy, sharp edges will destroy your mouth with the combination of searing heat and crunchy crust. But the memories taste so good. Be careful.

“Pizza bread” from the store

I was looking at the prepared foods section beside the deli in my local grocery store (shout out to Cermak) and I saw they had “Pizza bread.” I had been working on this blog post for a bit at the time, so I figured I’d give it a try since I didn’t have anything prepped for lunch that day.

There were ZERO instructions, but I figured for $3.99 I couldn’t really go wrong. All the pepperonis were whole instead of the fun little Stouffer’s triangles, so I fixed that with some kitchen shears.

Stouffer’s French bread pizza technique

In my research into the Stouffer’s French bread pizza, I found this Mashed.com article “We Finally Have Stouffer’s Iconic French Bread Pizza Recipe.” In that article, they suggest that a little fennel at the end is a required ingredient that a lot of people forget.

From that article they say that Stouffer’s actual ingredients/weights list/instructions is as follows:

  • 2.5 ounces (5 tablespoons) pizza sauce
  • Top each pizza with 1.5 ounces of shredded low-moisture mozzarella
  • 0.5 ounces of sliced pepperoni, cut into quarters
  • Bake your pizza at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until the cheese is melty and browning a little

I follow all of this in my recipe except for the baking time and temperature. 375 would probably work just fine though. I cook mine at 450 degrees F (232 C) for a shorter amount of time. All of this is in the recipe below.

The “French” bread

I’ve posted about this bread recipe a few times already. It’s my go-to long bread recipe now unless I need something really firm like a real French baguette.

This is also a super easy bread recipe. If you’re a beginning baker, it should be easy to jump in the deep end and become a baker with this recipe.

3 hours
Sub sandwich rolls

This is sort of a French style sandwich roll. Not too crusty but with a good chew for a sub sandwich or po-boy.

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The pepperoni

Boar’s Head pepperoni has a natural casing, which helps you get those pepperoni cups you see on pizzas that are cooked at higher temperatures than we’re working with here.

I try to buy Boar’s Head traditional pepperoni and slice it myself on a mandolin (WATCH YOUR FINGERS) but feel free to buy whatever pepperoni you like. The Boar’s Head brand has a natural casing which when cooked at high heat will produce the cupping pepperoni cups, holding pepperoni grease that people on Instagram like to see on their pizza. These French Bread pizzas will never get to that point, so buy the pepperoni that you like.

I’m a big pepperoni pizza fan, but for this pizza or sandwich or pizza sandwich you can use whatever toppings you’d like. Try it with mushrooms, Canadian bacon and pineapple or even just straight pizza sauce and cheese. If you have some leftover meatballs from spaghetti and meatball night, break some of those up on top and go to town.

The sauce

Here’s a big ole can of tomatoes.

My wife, Robin, has been making a similar sauce to this for a few years now.

Overall, this isn’t a copycat of the Stouffer’s sauce. It’s just a sauce that we both really enjoy, and it works great for a French bread pizza. Stouffer’s sauce is pretty sweet, and this sauce does have added sweetness that seems perfect for a pizza sandwich.

The sauce is easy to make, especially if you have a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you’re going to have to chop and mash up the tomatoes with all the other ingredients.

If possible, make your sauce the night before you plan to use it, because that will give the flavors extra time to meld.

40 minutes
Robin's pizza sauce

A slightly spicy, slightly sweet tomato sauce that's great for your next French bread pizza.

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The process

Let’s dive right in with this slideshow of the build process. This is how I build my French bread pizzas.

The French bread pizza recipe

Once you have your bread, sauce, cheese and toppings, this is a very simple recipe.

French bread pepperoni pizzas view printable page for this recipe

Much like the French bread pizzas you find in the freezer section of the grocery store, except you can tweak these to your liking with your favorite toppings and homemade sauce. Flip two French bread pizzas on top of each other for a great sandwich.

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Ingredients:

  • 6 inches of a French sub roll, split in half
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 to 10 tablespoons pizza sauce
  • 2 to 4 ounces low moisture mozzarella
  • 2 to 3 ounces pepperoni, cut into quarters
  • pinch fennel seed (optional)
  • grated parmesan (optional)
  • red chili flakes (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F (232 C)

Slice your French sub rolls length wise like you're making a sandwich. 

Spread a tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread and toast under the broiler until the butter is melted and the bread is browning and crisping up. This keeps the bread from getting too soggy under the sauce/cheese. 

Add each slice to a baking sheet or cookie sheet, buttered side up. 

Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of pizza sauce on each slice of bread. Make sure to get the sauce all the way to the edges of the bread.

Top the sauce with cheese. Make sure you have an even coating of cheese on each slice of bread. 

Add your toppings (in this case, pepperoni - but other pizza toppings would work well here too). Sprinkle the toppings around each slice for an even distribution. 

Sprinkle a pinch of fennel seed around the top. 

Add the sheet pan full of French bread pizzas to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melty and browning a little. Depending on your oven, you might want to take a quick peek at your pizzas around the 10-minute mark. 

If you want a really browned top, you can turn on the broiler for just a minute or two and broil the pizzas. BUT pay very close attention if you try this, it will go from epically toasty to tragically burned quickly if you're not paying attention. 

Remove pizzas from the oven top with grated parmesan and red chili flakes (if desired) and enjoy. 

Notes:

I like to take two French bread pizzas and flip them on top of each other to create a super comforting, melty and gooey sandwich. You should try it too!

With that recipe you can just make a bunch of French bread pizzas and go nuts eating them or you can flip each half together and make fantastically pleasing and comforting sandwiches.

I’m not sure why I never thought about turned these into sandwiches as a college student, but it’s a great idea.

Look below for how awesome French bread pizzas look when turned into sandwiches

A Poor Man’s Pizza with pepperoni and nice gooey cheese.
This sandwich is yelling “comfort” so loudly that you will surely need a nap very soon.
These are great with any toppings/fillings or just plain cheese and sauce.
This is a good sandwich to wrap up in paper or aluminum foil prior to eating. The foil helps to steam everything and soften some of the crispy edges, making all the sauce and cheese blend together.
A Pepperoni PMP. Or maybe it’s a PPMP? Whoa. What about a Personal Pepperoni PMP? PPPMP?

Make French bread pizzas. You heard me, just do it. They’re fantastic comfort food.

Pizza sandwiches are a whole different experience than pizza, they’re something else and they are great. Stick around for next week when we talk about leftovers.


Curderburger for your thoughts

On October 15th, for one day only, Culver’s plans to release the Curderburger. Instead of waiting, I made my own.


I didn’t expect to write about two fast food copycat recipes/sandwiches in a row, but because of timing and what some real writers would call an “editorial calendar,” here we are. Let’s Curderburger and enjoy it.


The April Fools joke 2021. A big fried cheese curd in a bun.

A Wisconsin based burger chain known as Culver’s shared an April Fools’ joke on social media earlier this year that jokingly announced The Curderburger. Cheese fans across the land got excited.

If you don’t know what a fried cheese curd is, congratulations; you’ve never been hungry in a bar in the Midwest of the United States. Cheese curds themselves are young unaged cheese — typically cheddar — that is separated from the whey. Instead of packing that cheese up and molding it into huge wheels, it’s chunked up into small pieces and sold immediately as cheese curds.

The Midwest delicacy known as fried cheese curds, takes these fresh curds and batters or coats them in breadcrumbs and they are fried to order. Much like the more well-known mozzarella stick, you end up with a crispy exterior and a tender, slightly melty interior.

The feedback from the comments on the April Fools’ joke convinced Culver’s to follow through and create a Curderburger. They’ve announced that it’s coming October 15th, at a Culver’s near you!

The original joke concept was just a big ole fried cheese curd in between a top and bottom bun. But Culver’s concept brought to life is their Deluxe butter burger with a fried cheese curd disk placed on top of the burger patty. Witness the following promo photos and action shots for the Curderburger coming out on October 15th.

The Curderburger promo photo.
A real-world version of the Curderburger. I think Dan Higgins/USA Today has credit for this photo.

It appears that Daniel Higgins/Green Bay Press Gazette gets credit for the real world Curderburger above.

If you want to know more about how Culver’s makes their burgers, this video should be instructive.

Culver’s is pretty good for a fast-food burger, but this is NOT what most Wisconsin butter burgers are actually like.

[side discussion/rant on butter burgers]

A Wisconsin butter burger often has scoops of butter on top of the burger patties before the patty is sealed up and then everything below gets all buttery. The only butter in a Culver’s “butter burger” is a spread of butter on the top bun before it gets toasted. That’s just fine, but it’s not what you’ll find at other burger joints in Wisconsin. I must stand up for my northern Wisconsin neighbors. Many burgers around the world are served on butter toasted buns. That doesn’t make them a butter burger.

Maybe one day I’ll attempt a Wisconsin butter burger for a blog post. I’ll make sure my doctors are all alerted before I start down that path, though.

[/side discussion/rant on butter burgers]

I’m going to use the techniques in that video plus all the promo photos and make a Curderburger.

A disk of cheese curds

Somehow, I opened this bag from the bottom because it’s chaos in sandwich land.

First, we need a big ole fried cheese curd patty.

My goal was to make disks out of cheese curds and then coat them in breadcrumbs and fry them just like normal people do.

At first, I thought that I would just coat some curds in an egg wash and then freeze them all together in a disk. The more I thought about it, it seemed that this would never really make a solid disk.

My second plan was to melt the curds and then shape them into disks. I had never melted cheese curds before, but about 30 seconds in the microwave does the trick. Turns out, lightly melting the curds and pouring the slightly melted cheese into a ring mold in the freezer for an hour will give you perfect disks of cheese curd ready for frying.

Here’s a two-photo slideshow of that process.

Then I lightly coated my curd disks in breadcrumbs and fried them. Culver’s uses breadcrumbs and not a batter so that’s what I did.

1 hour and 35 minutes
Fried cheese curd disks

Q: What's better than a bunch of fried cheese curds?
A: A bunch of really big fried cheese curds.

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Two fresh fried cheese curd disks.
A cross section of a fried cheese curd disk.
A big ole frying cheese curd hockey puck.

I made two different colors of curd disks because I spare no expense bringing you sandwich content.

Once you have your frozen disks of formed cheese curds, you coat them in all purpose flour, then run them through an egg wash and then coat with seasoned breadcrumbs.

Fry all your cheese curd pucks for 2-ish minutes at around 375 degrees F and you’re left with nice crunchy, soft in the middle cheese curds to turn into Curderburgers.

Once the cheese curds are fried, you’ll want to drain them on a wire rack, or a tray lined with paper towels. You can place your fried cheese curd disks in a 200-degree F oven to keep warm while you make the rest of your burger (don’t put paper towels in a hot oven though, watch out).

The smash burger

Frying curd disks and cooking cheeseburgers at the same time does take a bit of timing. But your burgers will be smash burgers which means they will cook only two or three minutes for a super thin patty.

I’ve covered smash burgers in a post before, and they’re easy as long as you have a hot surface and some way to smash the patty. I attempt to detail the process again in the full recipe down below.

Curderburger assembly time

Here’s the layering process if you’re writing these things down (and you should be):

  • Top bun
  • Butter (toasted on bun)
  • Fried cheese curd patty
  • Smashed burger patty (4 ounces)
  • Tomato slice
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Two slices of red onion
  • Three pickles
  • Bottom bun (toasted)

The toppings going in as bottomings here really gives me a bit of pause, but this is how Culver’s does it, so I did my best to do it as well.

Theirs vs mine

Overall, I think I did a pretty good job, but I won’t really know until I try a real life Curderburger. I will probably update the post at the very bottom after October 15th, 2021, with updates if I get the opportunity to try one.

30 minutes
Fried cheese curd smash burger

Based on the Culver's Curderburger, this is a fully loaded smash burger with a fried cheese curd patty on top.

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I’m going to attempt to try the Culver’s Curderburger on Friday. I’m not sure what the interest level will be or whether things will sell out, but if I get the opportunity I will try one, take a photo and give my review via @beerinator on twitter and @beerinator on instagram. I will also post more details on the new Bounded by Buns facebook page. Check out one of those and follow or like the page for this and future updates.


BREAKING: CURDERBURGER UPDATE

Updated: October 15th, 2021
I got the chance to try an official Curderburger today and it was pretty good. The curd disk was about a quarter of an inch think, where some of mine were closer to a half inch. If I were to make mine again and adjust the recipe I think that’s about the only thing I would change. My homemade bun was lighter and fresher than theirs, but everything else was pretty similar.

The thickness of the curd disk made a pretty big difference in texture. In some bites of the official Curderburger you couldn’t even tell that it was there other than the cheese flavor. The edge bites of the Curderburger were definitely the best parts because you not only got the texture from the smashburger patty, you also got the crunchy fried breadcrumb exterior from the fried cheese curd disk.

Overall, I enjoyed this burger. I would order it again, but I don’t think I’d order it every visit to Culver’s. If the Curderburger was a once a year or seasonal menu item then I would definitely use that opportunity to come back and try one.

An official Culver’s Curderburger. There’s lettuce, red onion, pickles, and tomato under there along with a slathering of mayo. Cheese is oozing out the side of the fried curd disk.
This guy’s name is Curdis. You can get him if you upgrade to a family sized cheese curd. I didn’t need him or the family sized cheese curd order but sometimes things happen for a reason. This was not one of those times because it happened for no reason.

If you didn’t get a chance to try this, I’m hoping that Culver’s brings it back from time to time. Maybe it’ll be a once a year thing they do for #NationalCheeseCurdDay.


What in the Taco Bell is this!?

Is it a Sandwich or Taco or Sandwich Taco or Taco Sandwich!? 🤔


It’s $1.49 if you order online, but $2.69 if you order at the store. They’re charging you an extra $1.20 per Sandwich Taco to talk to a real person.

Way back in February 2021 a place called Taco Bell announced a Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco (most real writers would shorten this to CCST or something but instead I’m going to spell it out every time because it’s fun). I spontaneously tried to make it that week and did OK, not great. There were things I knew I needed to change and this week I finally tried Taco Bell’s version and I set out to make my recipes better.

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco (NOT CCST) comes in two flavors. Spicy and Not Spicy/Regular. The only difference is the Spicy one has five or six pickled jalapenos on it. Taco Bell did not use much creativity with the differences here.

Both Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos have a soft and puffy flatbread, spicy chipotle sauce and one small chicken tender that is tortilla crusted and fried.

If you look closely, the puffy flatbread looks different in promo materials now compared to how it looked to me back in February. The photo from February (below) had a very consistently browned puffy shell and the one in the promo materials now (above) looks much more like a pita or regular flatbread.

When I saw it back in February and I noticed the consistent browning I was questioning how it was cooked. A tortilla or flatbread will hit the hot surface and it will not get consistent brown color because the baking soda (for a tortilla), or in this case yeast (for a flatbread) will make things start to bubble and the dough won’t consistently touch the surface.

Because of this image, back in February, I figured it had to be made in some sort of hot press to get solid consistent browning. Like the photo below. Also, it looked to me like the flatbread might have been pan seared in oil.

Taco Bell promo materials for the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco from February 2021.

At that time, my thought was to make flatbread in a panini press instead of in a skillet like most other flatbread recipes. This led to my test breads being thinner and not as puffy I wanted.

Fast forward to now and I see all their promo stuff no longer has that consistent browning and it just looks like a soft pita or super thick tortilla.

I made the tweet below back in February when they announced that this taco was coming.

Click through on the above image/tweet to read the thread where I talked about what I did back in February. I did ok, but I had some flaws.

At that point I had good tortilla crusted chicken, decent chipotle sauce and store-bought pickled jalapenos. My flatbread was pressed too hard in an attempt to get that consistent color, but everything was still really good.

Fast forward to now and none of the flatbreads in Taco Bell’s Sandwich Tacos have any browning or consistent color at all.

Trying the Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos

Here’s the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos that I bought last week. I had a wild idea to put some cheese sauce on one of them, so I added chips and nacho cheese to my order to see how that worked. It was ok, but the cheese sauce didn’t really help anything.

One regular and two spicy. The only differences are the pickled jalapenos. Nacho cheese and chips in the back for extra necessary calories.

These Sandwich Tacos are not very big. The chicken breast piece is basically the size of 2 chicken nuggets. I got out my kitchen measuring tape (you have one of these, right?) and the flatbread was right around 4 to 4.5 inches diameter.

Here’s a bit of a close-up. The flatbread was really soft and pillow-like.

The Sandwich Taco experience

Apparently adding jalapenos means 10 more calories.

These were way better than I expected. The flatbread was soft and pillowy. The chicken was moist and a tiny bit crispy on the outside and each sandwich taco was sauced fairly well. There wasn’t a whole lot of flavor in the chicken or the breading and it would have been better if the chicken had been a bit crunchier to contrast the soft flatbread. But overall, this was a good experience.

I think my biggest complaint here is that there’s a severe lack of creativity in the two versions. The only difference is the pickled jalapenos? I think it would have been good to have had a version with Taco Bell’s jalapeno ranch and maybe some lettuce or diced up tomato on top. When I mentioned this to my wife, she told me that you could recreate this jalapeno ranch version while ordering online or with the app, but I didn’t consider this until after I made my yearly Taco Bell trip.

Another idea for Taco Bell would be to make a sauce like a Nashville Hot sauce and dunk the tender in that and serve it with pickles or pickled jalapenos. Taco Bell is owned by the same ownership as KFC so they can figure this out and make this Sandwich Taco line expand. If you’re reading this, Taco Bell, pay me my money.

Let’s make our own Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco

First, we have to get together all of our ingredients.

The spicy chipotle sauce

When I tried to make the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco back in February, I started working on this recipe. Except for the color, I’ve got the flavors close now.

This is my third or fourth iteration of this chipotle sauce recipe. Even if you don’t plan to make Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos, this sauce is great on things like mashed or baked potatoes. Make the sauce and use it for a dip for fries or spread it on your next sausage biscuit. It’s a great sauce and easy to make.

10 minutes
Spicy Chipotle Sauce

Similar to the sauce they have at Taco Bell, this is a flavor explosion that can be added to pretty much any sandwich.

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The pickled jalapenos

The only thing that makes the Spicy and Non-spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos different from each other is the pickled jalapenos. I’ve got an easy recipe for those that is based off of my Spicy MSG pickle recipe. Make up a batch of these for your next nacho or taco night. Or just add them whenever you want to add a bit of heat and texture to a sandwich.

25 minutes
Pickled MSG jalapenos

Need a spicy kick with a bit of crunchy texture in your next sandwich? They're also perfect to spice up your next nacho or taco night.

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The flatbread

The flatbreads I made were between 4 and 5 inches in diameter.

The flatbread I made this week isn’t quite as light as Taco Bell’s but it’s still really soft. The recipe isn’t a super approachable recipe for beginners, simply because the dough turns out wet and sticky. I had to use a lot of flour when shaping the pre-cooked flatbreads to get it to shape in circle-ish shapes. You could add more flour to the dough at the beginning and that would make the shaping process easier, but then you’d end up with a denser flatbread.

This flatbread recipe is a whole lot closer to the actual Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco than my last attempt when I cooked it in a flat panini press. This is more like just making fat flour tortillas.

When you’re making flatbread like this, make sure you give it some time wrapped in a clean towel after you cook it to steam and get soft. If you need to reheat one of these puffy flatbreads, do so in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel for 30 seconds or so. This will bring it back to a softened and pliable state.

I measured the official Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos, and they were around 4 to 4.5 inches long. I shot for that diameter in my flatbreads and got close.

Recipe Card
1 hour and 30 minutes
Puffy flatbread

Soft and puffy flatbread can be used for Sandwich Tacos (thanks Taco Bell) or it can be as a substitute for naan or pita. Put some tomato sauce and melt some cheese on top and you've got yourself a fantastic personal pizza.

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The chicken

I made buttermilk jalapeno brined chicken that was crusted with tortilla chips and then fried. The whole recipe for this sandwich is down at the bottom of this post.

Tortilla crusted and fried chicken breast pieces waiting their turn.

The final showdown

Here’s Taco Bell’s on the left versus mine on the right. I got damn close. My flatbread is soft and pillowy, but not nearly as light as the one Taco Bell makes. I think they probably have flatbread scientists working on theirs.

My chicken was much crunchier and the whole thing was warmer, since I ate mine just a couple minutes after frying. But my chicken also had more spice and flavor when eaten on its own.

The sauce and the pickled jalapenos in mine were at least as good if not better than the Taco Bell ones. My chipotle sauce is a tiny bit spicier than Taco Bell’s. Overall, this was a success. It just took figuring out what direction they were taking with the flatbreads to understand where I needed to head for copying them. Now I know and knowing is clearly half the battle.

The big showdown. Click for bigger if you want to study the details.

I even made an image compare for you to see how close they are. This might be easier for phone or small screen comparisons. Check down below for the whole recipe.

Taco Bell’s version on the left and my version on the right. This was a fun “sandwich” to tackle.

My Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco copycat recipe:

Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco copycat view printable page for this recipe

A copycat recipe to recreate a Taco Bell Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. Spicy and crispy fried chicken in a puffy flatbread with a creamy chipotle sauce and pickled jalapenos.

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Ingredients:

Buttermilk jalapeno marinade
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 12 cup pickled jalapeno liquid
  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large chicken breast cut into four even pieces
Seasoned flour/tortilla chips
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 12 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • peanut oil for frying (2 inches high in your large pan)
Sandwich Taco assembly

Directions:

In a medium sized bowl add buttermilk, pickled jalapeno liquid, hot sauce, kosher salt and black pepper and whisk to combine. Put chicken in a zip top bag or bowl with a lid. Pour buttermilk jalapeno marinade over chicken and store in fridge for at least an hour or overnight. 

Make seasoned flour by combining flour and crushed up tortilla chips with all the spices, salt and pepper in a bowl, plate or pan.

Remove one piece of chicken at a time from the marinade and dredge in the seasoned flour mixture until thoroughly coated on all sides. Press firmly to make sure there are no dry spots on the chicken. Place fully coated chicken onto a piece of parchment or the rack of a sheetpan to rest.

Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a skillet to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Fry each piece of chicken for 5 to 6 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees internal temperature. You'll probably want to fry for 3 minutes on the first side and then flip it to make sure you're getting the level of browning that you want. Continue cooking on the other side. 

After frying, place finished chicken on a cooling rack over paper towels to drain some of the oil away. 

Assemble each of your Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos with a good squirt of your spicy chipotle sauce on the puffy flatbread. Add a piece of fried chicken on top and garnish with four or five pickled jalapenos. 

Serve and enjoy

Notes:

If you don't make the puffy flatbread, you could buy super soft tortillas or even buy store bought naan and cut it to the shapes that you need with a knife. 

Final Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos

Here’s a few more photos of my final Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos. This was a great Sandwich Taco, probably the best Sandwich Tacos I’ve ever made. Even if you don’t want to make your own Sandwich Tacos, you could use some of the other recipes I’ve shared to make other things that aren’t Sandwich Tacos.

A little close-up sauce dripping action.
Crunchy tortilla crusted chicken that is seasoned well makes all the difference in the world.
I think we nailed it.

Hopefully you all enjoyed my foray into Sandwich Tacos. Maybe next week we’ll tackle something closer to normal. Or maybe I’ll make a Curderburger?


Alice Springs chicken sandwich

This might or might not be the National sandwich of Australia.


Alice Springs on the map.

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.

Pulled from the online Outback Steakhouse menu. Look at all that broccoli. That’s too much broccoli. All this for 16 Dollerydoos.

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.

Released in 1997. A few of the restaurants recreated in the book no longer exist. True copycat recipe history.
The Alice Springs chicken layering technique presented in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes.

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.

Our homemade Alice Springs chicken and side salad with tangy tomato dressing.

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.

45 minutes
Alice Springs chicken copycat recipe

An easy recipe meant to replicate the flavors of Alice Springs chicken. Honey mustard marinated grilled chicken with grilled bacon and mushrooms covered in melted cheese? Yes please.

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The bread

Add some honey to some softened butter and then go to town on this sweet bread.

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 don’t own a nice thick wooden handled knife, but I remember that’s how they served the bread at Outback.

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 crumb shot. This bread is good for snacking, slicing and spreading with butter (or even better, honey butter). It’s a bit dense for most sandwiches. But it still didn’t fall apart. It would probably be great in loaf form sliced for patty melts or grilled cheese.

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.

The sandwiches

Here we go, it’s sandwich time.

Instructions:

  1. Take some Alice Springs chicken and put it between buns or bread
  2. Add extra honey mustard as needed
  3. Eat and enjoy
Grilled chicken, mushroom, bacon and cheese. What’s not to like?
The full Alice Springs chicken sandwich with Outback black bread and side salad with tangy tomato dressing.
The final Alice Springs chicken sandwich on a 5-inch-long honey wheat bushman bread roll.

Hopefully Australia won’t try to Boot me for this one.

The sandwich is good so the punishment would be worth it probably.

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.


Can’t quit the herb cold turkey

Robin wanted me to title this one: “Not your Uncle Herb’s turkey sandwich.”


This week started out with me having an urge to bake some bagels. Part of my blog process, and one of my most often used sources for sandwich inspiration is google image search. I will often search to see examples of things that are like what I am attempting to make. My google search history is as full of sandwiches as I am.

A screenshot from Bruegger’s online menu.

I began with no real plan except I wanted to bake another batch of bagels and while searching around I was reminded of Bruegger’s.

If you’re not familiar, Bruegger’s Bagels is a sandwich chain in the United States (just shy of 200 locations) that specializes in bagel sandwiches. Twenty plus years ago, when my wife and I had just started dating, we enjoyed quite a few trips to our nearby Bruegger’s. Often, I think we both ordered a custom build-your-own bagel sandwich, but there was one sandwich on their specialties menu that we enjoyed from time to time.

From Bruegger’s Facebook page (this is not my photo). This is an official photo of the sandwich I’m attempting to copycat. Click for larger.

The Herby Turkey is a sliced roasted turkey sandwich with garlic and herb flavored cream cheese, sundried tomato spread, lettuce and red onions on a sesame bagel. I have no idea if the Herby Turkey is a good sandwich on Bruegger’s menu today because I haven’t eaten at one in more than fifteen years, but it is the bagel sandwich that I remember best from that period in my life. It also seemed like a fun sandwich to tackle for the blog.

Read along as I tell and show you how I made the ingredients in my version of the Herby Turkey bagel.

The bagels

I’ve only made four batches of bagels ever. My first batch (pictured down below) was a sourdough batch and since then I’ve tried two other recipes. The one that I’ve made the most (twice) is this easy bagel recipe from King Arthur Baking.

Bagels start out like regular bread dough but then shift to being similar to baking pretzels because there’s a short period of boiling prior to actual baking. For this King Arthur recipe, the only non-typical ingredient is non-diastatic malt powder. I bought this stuff from Amazon, but King Arthur’s recipe says that you can also use brown sugar or barley malt syrup which I have also used in a past recipe. I’m not sure that the difference was great enough to notice, but I want to do one more batch with the non-diastatic malt powder before I decide on that.

For this Herby Turkey recreation, I baked some sesame bagels and some plain ones.
Open says-a me!
This is the first batch of bagels I ever baked in early April 2020. These are from a sourdough recipe.

The Turkey

For this week’s sandwich I was at the store interested in buying a turkey breast and they were out. The local store I shop at (shout out to Cermak Produce on North Ave) usually has a great meat selection with lots of turkey options but this day they were cleaned out. Instead of a breast, I was able to buy bone-in turkey thighs. Sometimes you need to audible and change your plans.

If you want to replicate this sandwich or something like it, you can use the recipe below for a black pepper crusted turkey breast. This was the first time I had bought bone in turkey thighs or any sort of turkey thighs to cook. We have cooked whole turkeys and turkey breasts but never thighs alone. But since I enjoy cooking chicken thighs so much, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I googled some turkey thigh recipes online and narrowed it down to the oven-based ones. They all said somewhere between 350 F and 400 F and 50 to 70 minutes. I started at 400 and set an instant read thermometer and it took right around 55 minutes to get to 160 degrees F. Carryover cooking took it up to 165 after it was removed from the oven.

I let the thighs cool off, removed the bone, and then put them into the fridge for slicing when they had firmed up the next day.

Here’s my black pepper crusted turkey breast recipe, it’s great if you like pepper and it’s easy.

2 hours and 5 minutes
Oven roasted black pepper turkey

Super peppery turkey when cooked to temp is a very flavorful and moist addition to a sandwich. From a turkey, bacon club to a Kentucky Hot Brown (not an urban dictionary entry), this is a solid recipe to have bookmarked.

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The cream cheese

I never thought I’d be making my own bagels, much less whipping up my own cream cheese flavors.

Growing up in the Southeastern United States, I don’t think I had ever had a bagel sandwich with cream cheese on it until I was in my mid 20’s. I had certainly had bagels and cream cheese before, but not in an official sandwich role with meat and veggies.

Since then, I’ve become a pretty big fan of cream cheese in sandwiches and even hot dogs (cream cheese on a hot dog is a top tier condiment – but this discussion is for another sandwich, another week).

Sure, you can buy herb flavored cream cheese at most grocery stores, but I decided to make my own. Other than 50-ish minutes waiting for garlic to roast in the oven, this recipe is very simple to make.

1 hour
Roasted garlic herby cream cheese

Creamy with herby freshness and sweet roasted garlic, this spread is great on bagels or toast. You can even enjoy this on crackers as a snack.

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Sun dried tomato spread

Much like the flavored cream cheese, sun dried tomato spread is also very easy to make. It is also something you can buy at the store, so take that into account if you want to make this sandwich. Sun dried tomato spread is great on other sandwiches too. During the winter, you can substitute a regular tomato slice for sun dried tomato spread to step your off-season BLT game up.

5 minutes
Sun-dried tomato spread

This spread is great on a sandwich with cheese and meat. A bagel sandwiched with cream cheese on one side and sun-dried tomato spread on the other is fantastic.

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Put it all together

Let us assemble all this sandwich stuff. Here are all the ingredients in one photo ready for sandwiching.

All the pieces for my herby turkey inspired bagel sandwich.

Once you get all your ingredients together, I placed my sandwich parts into the following order from top to bottom:

  • top bagel slice
  • spread of sun dried tomato spread
  • sliced red onion
  • turkey slices
  • green leaf lettuce
  • big smear of garlic herby cream cheese
  • bottom bagel slice

BAGEL SANDWICH TIP: cut your bagel sandwich in half. This may offend some folks. I don’t know how they do it in NYC or Montreal but cutting a bagel sandwich in half could be the best thing you take away from this blog post. When you bite into a bagel sandwich, you’re biting down hard; a bagel isn’t the softest bread. A hard bite will shove and push your sandwich internals all around and potentially out of the sandwich. Cutting the bagel in half means you have less horizontal distance to shove ingredients out of your sandwich. Even if none of this totally real sandwich physics are true, having two smaller sandwich pieces will mean that there’s less sandwich internals to smush around.

Trust me: slicing your bagel sandwich in half is the way to go for maximum bagel sandwich enjoyment.

Cross section of one of my homemade herby turkey bagels.
Sandwich, ready for a close up.

Even if you don’t try to make any of these ingredients and instead buy them at the store, I certainly hope you’ll try a bagel with cream cheese and sun dried tomato spread. That combination would work with all sorts of meat and veggies and the chewiness of the bagel pairs well with soft spreadable cream cheese and tangy tomato spread.

Check back next week when I get crazy with potatoes and sandwiches.


The Uva sandwich

The Uva from Bojangles

Fried chicken = great
Pimento cheese = great
Blueberry biscuit = great
What could go wrong?


In January 2021, a Sports Anchor/Reporter named Mike Uva from South Carolina drove to a nearby Bojangles and ordered a Pimento Cheese Cajun Filet Biscuit (spicy fried chicken with pimento cheese spread on a buttery biscuit) and was shocked to find that the Bojangles employee swapped his buttery biscuit for a sweetened blueberry biscuit (Bojangles calls these Bo-Berry Biscuits and they are sweet biscuits topped with a sugary glaze). Uva tweeted about it with a photo and seemed worried at first, but soon learned that it was a tempting combination that Bojangles might want to lean in to.

Here’s his original tweet:

Bojangles was tagged and their social media team decided to run with it. Between Uva’s and Bojangle’s promotion of the tweet it seemed to catch traction in the South Eastern states where you can find Bojangles. Over the next few days Uva shared and retweeted many photos that his followers had shared with him of their experience with what people were now calling “The Uva.”

Bojangles marketing team eventually cooked up the following tweet with a much more impressive looking breakfast sandwich.

At this point, I figured I had to make it. Read on to see how I tackled it.

Pimento cheese

I started with my Mom’s pimento cheese recipe.

20 minutes
Mom's pimento cheese

An awesome addition to a sausage biscuit sandwich. This is my Mom's recipe. Growing up, I enjoyed a lot of pimento cheese sandwiches, with just the spread and sliced bread. This recipe also works great as a snack with crackers or pretzels.

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Fried chicken

And a quick and dirty recipe I use fairly often to fry chicken for a sandwich or for chicken tenders.

35 minutes
Buttermilk fried chicken thighs

A quick and easy recipe to prepare fried chicken for sandwiches. The cayenne gives it some heat. You can omit that if you don't want it spicy or even double it if you're extra bold.

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Blueberry biscuit

After I had my cheese and chicken sorted, I started working on a plan for a Bojangles Bo-Berry biscuit copy cat recipe. I began with my typical Buttermilk biscuit and added some sugar. Since it wasn’t blueberry season, I opted for the frozen variety. You have to fold the blueberries into the biscuit dough as you’re doing your final folds or otherwise you’ll end up with a big purple mess. (edit from the future: I have made this many times with fresh blueberries and it works just fine, but you should cut your blueberries in half first if they’re really big)

I made a glaze with confectioners sugar and milk, and I applied mine when the biscuits were still pretty warm. My glaze wasn’t as thick as Bojangles, but the flavors were great and I was pretty excited with the results. If I wanted to be closer to what Bojangles often uses in their Bo-Berry biscuit promotional materials, I would put my glaze in a small ziplock bag and wait for both the glaze and the biscuit to be fairly cool and cut a tiny corner out of the ziplock bag and squirt the glaze into a diagonal shape on top of each biscuit.

All together this turned out to be a great sandwich. Super savory from the fried chicken and pimento cheese balanced out with a good amount of sweetness from the biscuit. I think if I did it again, I would probably leave off the glaze on any blueberry biscuit that I planned to eat in sandwich form because it got a little sticky and messy.

You can find the blueberry biscuit recipe below this photo of my finished Uva.

The Uva copycat. A blueberry biscuit with pimento cheese spread and a fried chicken thigh.

Make an Uva and become a much more exciting person!

Blueberry biscuits view printable page for this recipe

This is an attempt at a copycat recipe for Bojangle's Bo-berry biscuit. If you like sweet and savory combinations in your food, you might enjoy this with a fried pork sausage patty or slice of ham.

Tags:

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups self-rising flour (300g)
  • 1 stick frozen butter
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 14 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup frozen thawed blueberries
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
Optional glaze
  • 14 cup milk
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 12 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Grate frozen butter into the sifted self rising flour. Add sugar. Stir to combine until the butter is fully coated by flour. 
  2. Put bowl in freezer for 10 minutes 
  3. Combine buttermilk to bring together as a dough. Stir no more than 15 times. Overworking the dough at this stage could cause your finished biscuits to be more tough.  
  4. On a floured surface dump out dough and roll with a rolling pin. Dust with flour as needed when dough gets sticky. Fold the dough over on itself five different times creating layers. Each time you fold, add some blueberries. The point here is to get them incorporated into your dough without smashing them to bits. 
  5. Roll dough to 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut biscuits into circles or squares and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. When cutting, you do not want to twist the cutter. Twisting while cutting will ruin the layers that you created with folding. 
  7. Placing your cut biscuits next to each other (touching) on the sheet pan will help them rise taller. 
  8. Bake at 475 degrees for around 15 minutes. Check around the 12 minute mark to make sure they do not brown too much. 
  9. When biscuits are done, transfer them off of your baking pan onto a cooling rack to stop the bottoms from cooking further. Paint the melted butter on top of each biscuit or you can prepare a glaze if you want them to be more like the bo-berry biscuits at Bojangles.  
  10. (OPTIONAL) To make the optional glaze, combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk until fully combined. Spoon over biscuits right before serving. 

Notes:

Because this biscuit recipe has sugar, you will probably see it brown faster than a normal biscuit recipe.