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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Restaurant Wars 2013 - Panera

Restaurant Wars 2013 continues today with Panera!  The Boyfriend and I actually live within walking distance to the town Panera, which means we eat there at least once a week.  Usually in the winter, we eat there almost exclusively.  Mostly because it gets cold here in the winter and it's the closest restaurant to our apartment.  Seriously, it's better to walk there than it is to get in a cold car and drive anywhere else.

I used to really enjoy eating their sandwiches, but that was before I got my braces.  Nowadays eating a sandwich is just a bit too much work, but I really love their salads.  Fall is my favorite time to go to Panera because that's when they come out with their Harvest Turkey salad!  

Actually, I really liked the salad they sold for the past two years.  This years fall salad is okay.  The previous incarnation of the harvest turkey salad was topped with dried cranberries, gorgonzola, pears, pecans and the most delicious cherry vinaigrette.  I wanted to steal their tub of dressing and take it home.  Once I learned that they weren't bringing back my favorite salad, it was an easy choice as to which menu item I was going to recreate.

My usual order at Panera is the "Pick Two" deal.  Half a salad and a bowl of soup, or more often these days, the macaroni and cheese.  I know it's not good for me, but it's so delicious!  I don't even care that they microwave it in a little plastic bag and then pour it into my ceramic bowl.  Whatever, it's delicious.

The secret behind making the Panera mac'n'cheese at home is American cheese.  And heavy cream.  And butter.  This stuff is not diet friendly!  But it is so good!  Be warned though, this recipe makes a lot of pasta.  Either feed it to a lot of people, or try and give it away.  You do not want this stuff in your fridge, staring at you while you try and choose a healthier option for lunch!

What do you order when you're at Panera?  Once these braces come off, I'm getting myself a Sierra turkey sandwich!

One Year AgoCookie Dough Dip
Two Years AgoChicken & Herb White Pizza
Three Years AgoAcorn Squash Ravioli & cranberry-walnut sauce

Panera Mac'n'Cheese
Adapted from Smells Like Home

16 oz pipette pasta
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 heavy cream
1 cup skim milk
5 oz white American cheese, chopped or torn into pieces
7 oz extra sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Kosher salt

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, prepare cheese sauce.  In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add flour and whisk until smooth.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.  Combine heavy cream and milk, slowly add milk mixture to pan, whisking the entire time.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 5-8 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat and add cheese in large handfuls.  Whisk until cheese is melted before adding more.  Once all the cheese is added, add Dijon mustard and return to low heat.

Drain pasta an add to the cheese sauce.  Stir to coat pasta in cheese sauce and serve.

Harvest Turkey Salad
A Wilde Original

Cherry Vinaigrette

1 cup tart cherry juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Salad Ingredients

Mixed spring greens
Gorgonzola cheese
Dried cherries
d'Anjou pear, cored and chopped
Pecans, chopped and toasted

Place cherry juice in a small pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and let reduce until less that 1/4 cup liquid remains.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Transfer to a bottle with a lid and add remaining ingredients.  Shake and pour over salad.
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