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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001

Restaurant favorites to whip up at home

A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes is the title of Todd Wilbur's efforts to ferret out recipes of prepared foods that we enjoy but would love to be able to re-create in our kitchens. Two of the recipes here are from his book.

The first is for the deep-fried onions similar to those served at Outback Restaurants, and the dipping sauce that accompanies this popular dish. The second is for KFC's cole slaw.

Red Lobster's cheese biscuits melt in your mouth. Cheddar cheese and a hint of garlic make these biscuits impossible to resist.

We can't let the day go by without a sweet. Patricia Millen shares her recipe for molasses tea cakes.

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For: Domenick Bomentre of Citrus Springs, F. Johnsen of New Port Richey and Helen Godios of Largo.

From: Ann Lalane of Spring Hill.

Recipe: Outback's Bloomin' Onion from A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

Outback's Bloomin' Onion

1 egg

1 cup milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons salt

11/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon cumin

1 giant Spanish onion (3/4 pound or more)

Vegetable oil for frying

Dipping sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons ketchup

2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

Dash ground black pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

Prepare dipping sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Beat egg and combine it with the milk in a medium bowl big enough to hold onion.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, peppers, oregano, thyme and cumin.

Slice 3/4-1 inch off the top and bottom of onion. Remove papery skin. Using a "thin" knife, cut a 1-inch-diameter core out of the middle of the onion. Use a large knife to slice several times down center to create "petals" of the completed onion. First, slice through the onion center to about 3/4 of the way down; turn onion 90 degrees and slice it again in an "X" across the first slice. Keep slicing the sections in half very carefully until you've cut the onion 16 times. Do not cut down to the bottom! Spread petals of the onion apart to make coating easier.

Dip onion in milk mixture, then coat liberally with dry ingredients. Again separate petals and sprinkle the dry coating between them. When onion is well-coated, redip in milk mixture and into dry mixture. Let coated onion rest in refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Heat oil, deep enough to completely cover onion, to 350 degrees. Fry right side up for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Open the onion wider from the center so that you can put a small dish of the dipping sauce in the center. You may also use plain ketchup. Serves 2-4 as an appetizer or snack.

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For: Magdaline Barber of St. Petersburg.

From: Nancy Rhodes of Oldsmar, Wenona Deuitch of Largo and Juanita Washington and Pam Hill of Clearwater.

Recipe: KFC cole slaw from A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

KFC Cole Slaw

8 cups very finely choped cabbage (1 head)

1/4 cup shredded carrot (1 medium carrot)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk

11/2 tablespoons white vinegar

21/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Be sure that the cabbage and carrots are chopped up into very fine pieces (about the size of rice kernels).

Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, milk, mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar and lemon juice; beat until smooth. Add the cabbage and carrots. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 8.

Tidbits: The critical part of this cole slaw recipe is the flavor-enhancement period before eating. Be absolutely certain the cole slaw sits in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours (overnight is even better) before serving for a great-tasting slew of slaw.

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For: Dawn Craven of Clearwater and Evelyn Simmerman of Dunedin.

From: Jerri Ann Peck of St. Pete Beach and Juanita Washington of Clearwater.

Recipe: Red Lobster cheese biscuits. Jerri Ann clipped her recipe from the Syracuse Post Standard recipe swap.

Red Lobster Cheese Biscuits

2 cups buttermilk baking mix (Bisquick)

2/3 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted (1/2 stick)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine baking mix, milk and cheese with a wooden spoon until soft dough forms. Beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Combine butter and garlic powder; brush over warm biscuits before removing from cookie sheet. Serve warm. Makes 10-12.

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For: Juanita Alexander of St. Petersburg.

From: Patricia Miller of Largo.

Recipe: Five-star molasses tea cakes.

Five-Star Molasses Tea Cakes

21/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons molasses (light or dark)

Confectioners' sugar

In large mixer bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add butter; beat at low speed until crumbly (1-2 minutes). Reserve 1/3 cup crumb mixture for topping; set aside.

To remaining crumb mixture stir in baking powder and baking soda. Beat at low speed until well-mixed (1 minute). Add milk and molasses; continue beating just until moistened (30-60 seconds). Do not overmix.

Divide dough into 16 pieces. Shape into 3/4-inch thick moons, stars, circles or whatever shape cookie cutter you are using. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 11-14 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight containers. Makes 16 servings.

Note: If desired, drizzle cakes with melted chocolate.

Restaurant requests

Margaret Collver of Clearwater thinks the Tuscan soup served at the Olive Garden restaurant is delicious. It contains potatoes, Italian sausage, Italian greens and spices. Any chance of getting the recipe?

Can Leverock's be persuaded to share the recipe for its sunny mustard salad dressing? This is a favorite of Carole Carson of Treasure Island.

Two more Outback recipes are on the most-wanted list: Carol Williams of Pinellas Park would be delighted to have the recipe for its cream of onion soup, and coconut-encrusted shrimp is the recipe wanted by Maureen Dean of St. Petersburg.

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If you have a cooking question or the answer to someone else's question, write to You Asked For It, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Include your full name, city and phone number.

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