In a small apartment, the sound of rush-hour traffic filters through the warm evening air. A group of tired, hungry friends voices a serious craving — not for some seasonal restaurant cuisine or even tacos, but for fast food. Crunchy, melty, salty, addictive fast food.
No one is willing to make a junk food run and risk losing a coveted parking spot. But the grocery store is just down the street.
Fast forward 30 minutes. The coffee table is covered in dirty paper plates and crumpled paper napkins. A group of tired friends is now on the couch, happily satiated.
This was the scene after a recent fast-food craving for a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme hit. It may sound counterintuitive, but for us, at the time, making the stuff from scratch ourselves was oddly easier than the alternative.
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If you’re not familiar with the Crunchwrap Supreme (really?), it involves a large flour tortilla wrapped around taco meat, nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, sour cream and a crunchy tostada.
Sometimes you need it. It creeps up on you in the same way you yearn for the special sauce from an In-N-Out Double Double burger to drip down your chin. And it’s that same feeling you get when you think about the takeout box of Panda Express orange chicken you can attack with some wooden chopsticks.
No one is judging you. And if they are, they shouldn’t be. Not all meals can be eaten at the most lauded restaurants.
But a craving for fast food doesn’t mean you actually have to eat dinner at a fast-food restaurant. Bad playlists, scratchy paper napkins and fluorescent lighting aren’t good for anyone.
The solution? Make your fast-food favorites at home, and eat them in the comfort of your dimly lighted dining room, listening to NPR with your Labrador curled up under your feet.
As an act of public service, we are providing our own recipes for copycat In-N-Out Double Doubles, Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supremes and Panda Express orange chicken. We think there’s a high probability these “unofficial” recipes will taste better than the real thing.
Homemade Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (preferably 20 percent fat)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon chile powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1/2 tablespoon ground chipotle powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Add the oil to the pan, then add the onions. Cook the onions until they are translucent and just start to brown, about 4 minutes.
Add the ground beef to the pan. Mix the ground beef with the onions until well mixed. Add the cumin, chile powder, onion powder, garlic powder, ancho chile powder, ground chipotle powder, salt and sugar to the pan and mix well. Cook the meat until it browns, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 (12 ounce) can of evaporated milk
Toss the cheese and corn starch together in a medium sauce pan. Add the evaporated milk and stir.
Heat over medium heat until the mixture thickens to a sauce, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. This makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
8 extra-large (12-inch diameter) tortillas
8 small (4- to 6-inch) round tostadas
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 small roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup black olives, diced
About 3/4 cup sour cream
1 bottle hot sauce
To assemble the crunchwraps, lay out each of the tortillas. Evenly divide the taco meat among the tortillas, spooning a small circle on top of each tortilla. Top each mound of taco meat with a tostada, then evenly divide the shredded lettuce, cheese sauce, tomato and diced olives. Top each with a heaping tablespoon of sour cream.
Carefully fold the outer edges of each tortilla toward the center, creating a circular package using five folds.
Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot. Toast each crunchwrap until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Serve immediately with the hot sauce.
Yield: 8 wraps.
Homemade Panda Express Orange Chicken
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ginger, grated
2 1/2 teaspoons of sambal chile sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, stir together the water and corn starch to make a slurry. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, zest and marmalade along with the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chile sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, honey, pepper and salt. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a simmer, 2 to 3 minutes.
Whisk in the corn starch slurry and continue to cook until the sauce comes back to a simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. This makes about 1 cup sauce.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 1/2 cups corn starch
Vegetable oil, for frying
Pour the corn starch into a shallow baking dish or bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in with the corn starch to coat, then set aside for a few minutes. Toss the chicken with the corn starch a second time to coat again. Set aside.
Add enough oil to a large heavy pot so the oil comes about halfway up the sides. Heat the oil until a thermometer inserted reaches 350 degrees.
Fry the chicken pieces, a handful at a time, until the chicken is firm and the fried coating is a pale golden. Drain on a cooling rack lined with paper towels.
Orange chicken sauce
Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the orange chicken sauce and cook until the sauce starts to bubble, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken to the pan and stir until each piece is well coated with the sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 406 calories, 26 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 17 g fat (2 g saturated), 83 mg cholesterol, 10 g sugar, 553 mg sodium.
Yield: 8 servings.
Homemade In-N-Out Double Double
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons ketchup (scant 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
2 1/2 teaspoons dill pickle relish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, sweet and dill pickle relishes, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and sugar. This makes about 3/4 cup sauce. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.
2 pounds ground beef chuck (80/20 fat ratio if possible)
16 iceberg lettuce leaves
8 slices beefsteak tomato
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
16 slices American cheese
8 white hamburger buns
Measure out 16 (2-ounce) patties of meat and flatten each patty to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Season each side of the patty with a pinch of salt and set aside while you heat the griddle.
Toast the buns, cut-side down, on the griddle just until the cut sides begin to toast, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat a griddle pan over medium heat until hot. Cook the burgers on one side until the patties start to brown, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Flip the burgers, adding a slice of cheese to the browned tops of each one. Continue to cook until the burgers are cooked and the cheese is beginning to melt, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
To assemble the burgers, slather about 1 tablespoon sauce on the toasted top and bottom of each bun. On the bottom of each bun, layer two lettuce leaves, a slice of tomato, one cheeseburger patty, a few onion rings, another cheeseburger patty and the top burger bun. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to form eight burgers. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8 burgers.