Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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Gnocchi With A Porcini Mushroom And Sweet Italian Sausage Ragu

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Whenever I talk about a “ragù”  it’s usually a meat-based sauce served with some type of pasta. In this case, I thought that using the soft pillowy texture of a potato Gnocchi would be perfect. This is my Gnocchi With A Porcini Mushroom And Sweet Italian Sausage Ragu.

Let’s start with the ragù.

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Olive Oil

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Colander-Style Spoon

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Colander-Style Spoon

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley




Prep Time: 15 minutes (re-hydrating mushrooms)
Cooking Time: 40 minutes (includes the cooking time for browning sausage)
Total Cook Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 1 (3-quart) saucepot, 1 (10-inch) sauté pan, 1 (12-inch) rondeau (deep-sided frying pan) 1 (6-quart) saucepot, Microplane

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 (4.5-ounce) package of dried Porcini mushrooms
2 cups of beef broth, low sodium
1 cup of mushroom stock (the liquid from the re-hydrated Porcini mushrooms)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 package of store-bought potato gnocchi, (substitute homemade)
1 1/4 cups of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (reserve 1/2 cup to sprinkle over each serving)

Start by re-hydrating the Porcini mushrooms over medium-low heat with unsalted beef broth, 15 to 20 minutes until plump. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and transfer them to a cutting board, reserving the mushroom liquid. Next, finely dice the mushrooms placing them into a small bowl.

In a rondeau pan (deep-sided frying pan) over medium heat add olive oil and fennel seeds. Next, add  Italian sausage to the pan breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook and stir until sausage is completely brown, with no pink, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and drain the grease by using a strainer or a slotted spoon, transferring the sausage to a large mixing bowl.

While the sausage is browning, dice up the onion and mince the garlic. Set aside.

Using the same rondeau pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, allowing the onions become soft and translucent 2 to 3 minutes. Next, add the chopped Porcini mushrooms, minced garlic, and the fresh thyme leaves, stir to combine.

At this point, add the gnocchi to a pot of boiling salted water.

Add the reserved mushroom stock to the pan. Allow the stock to simmer and reduce until there is only a couple of tablespoons of the liquid is left in the pan. Add the cooked sausage and crushed tomatoes, stir to combine, simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and add the heavy cream, stir through.

When it the Gnocchi begins floating they’re done. Using a colander-style spoon transfer the gnocchi into the pan with the ragù, stir gently to combine. Turn the heat to off. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, again, stir to combine. Garnish with chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley.

Ladle the Gnocchi With A Porcini Mushroom And Sweet Italian Sausage Ragù into individual porcelain serving bowls. Top with more of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve hot.

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Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle

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Cheesecakes, besides being decadent and delicious, I believe are one of the most popular dessert items found on restaurant menus. Whenever I’m making a cheesecake, I think about the three things, first, the crust, then the filling, and finally the topping. Of course, the traditional is only comprised of two of these, the crust and the cheese filling. Let’s face it, cheesecake lovers are always trying to invent new ways of sprucing up the traditional with fruit, chocolate, and even making savory ones.

I really want to take a minute to talk about the batter, the body of the cheesecake. My two main objectives are to prevent the cheesecake from cracking or the eggs from curdling. I like using a water bath, a gentle heat, for the baking process which prevents the cheesecake from cracking.

When using both corn starch and flour in the batter, the cornstarch will prevent the eggs from curdling. I’ve also have found, after the cheesecake has baked for an hour, leaving the cheesecake in the water bath, in the oven with the heat off, and the oven door slightly ajar for an additional hour, will ensure you won’t have cheesecake with those little annoying cracks in the top. The residual heat, in the walls and left in the water bath, will radiate enough heat to complete the baking process.

It’s a personal preference that I choose to use a little flour in the batter. I like the creamy, silky yet firm texture to my finished cheesecake. Now, if I were making a savory version, then I’d incorporate flour and cornstarch in the batter because I’d want a slightly firmer texture. No matter savory or sweet, the gentle heat of a water bath is always the method I use.

This is my Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle.

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Note: Reserve the vanilla pod(s) for your granulated sugar. You’ll have vanilla-flavored sugar for future recipes.

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Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Inactive Baking Time: 60 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Crust: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Strawberry Sauce: 30 minutes
Refrigerate Cheesecake: overnight
Freeze Cheesecake: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Yields: 8 to 10 slices
Equipment: 1 (9-inch) springform pan, 1 (3-quart) saucepan a roasting pan, 1 (10-cup) food processor, an electric mixer, aluminum foil, long wooden skewer, Stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer

Note: Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature

Ingredients For The Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups of tightly packed cracker crumbs (1 sleeve each, honey graham crackers and cinnamon graham crackers, processed)
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 stick of butter, unsalted and melted

Ingredients For The Strawberry Filling:
2 pints fresh strawberries, hauled and cut
2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
1/4 cup of strawberry preserves
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Ingredients For The Cheesecake Filling;
3 (8-ounce) bars of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup  Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of sour cream, room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 seeded vanilla bean (reserve the vanilla bean pod(s))
3 large eggs, room temperature

Hot water for “water bath”

Ingredients For White Chocolate:
2 (11-ounce) packages of Ghirardelli White chocolate chips, melted

Directions For Strawberry Sauce:
Start with fresh strawberries that have been hulled and halved into a food processor. Add in the cornstarch and pulse until the strawberries are completely puréed. Next, pour the puréed strawberry mixture into a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, add fresh lemon juice, granulated sugar, and strawberry preserves, stir to combine. Bring up to a boil, constantly stirring, Cook the strawberry sauce until shiny and thick. This takes about 5 minutes. You’ll see that the sauce has thickened when you run your finger down the back of a spoon and it stays separated. Remove the sauce from the heat, place it into a bowl, and transfer to the frig to chill for 30 minutes.

Directions For Graham Cracker Crust:
prepare the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the two varieties of graham crackers. Transfer the graham cracker crumbs to a mixing bowl add sugar, stir to combine. Add in the melted butter, mix to combine. The crumbs should look like wet sand. Dump the cracker crumbs into the springform pan. Spread the crumbs around with your fingers to fill the bottom of the pan. Then using the bottom of a small shot glass, firmly press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and around the interior edges of the pan. Prepare the outside of the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Directions For Cheesecake Filling:
In an electric hand-held or stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the softened cream cheese, Mascarpone cheese, and flour beat until light and fluffy. Next, add the lemon zest, sour cream, vanilla extract, and the caviar of the vanilla bean. With the mixer on low speed gradually add in the sweetened condensed milk. Finally, add the room temperature eggs one at a time until just combined. Turn the mixer off.

Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.
Remove the crust and strawberry filling out of the frig. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon dollops of strawberry sauce onto the batter. Then pour the other half of the cream cheese mixture carefully on top, not to disturb the strawberry dollops. Then repeat adding spoonfuls of strawberry filling on the top. Using the pointy end of a skewer, make swirly designs making sure not to go through to the bottom layer. Just draw the swirls really lightly on the top.

Set the filled (unbaked cheesecake) and foil-wrapped springform pan into a large roasting pan. Have a tea kettle of hot water ready. Add the hot water into the roasting pan so it comes about a 1/4 of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Tip: Set the roasting pan with the cheesecake in the pan, and in the oven first, before adding in the hot water.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until center is almost set. Turn the oven off leaving the pan in the oven with the door slightly ajar for another hour. Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let cool on a wire rack until room temperature, around 20 minutes.

Remove the foil from around the pan and refrigerate overnight. The next day, microwave the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 15-seconds; remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until most of the chocolate has melted. The white chocolate will continue to melt from its own heat upon being stirred. Remove the springform pan from around the cheesecake. Take a fork, dip it into the melted chocolate, drizzle the melted white chocolate all over the top and down the sides. The cold cheesecake will harden the chocolate pretty fast.

I like to place my cheesecake in the freezer for around 2 hours then return the cake to the refrigerator before cutting. This helps to make the cheesecake nice and firm allowing you to have smooth even slices.

Tip For Slicing Cheesecake:
Take a sharp knife, dip it into very hot water, before slicing each piece.

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Crab Rangoon Souffle

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I love Crab Rangoons. What better way then to put those flavors into a light and fluffy souffle. This recipe came to me as I was remembering a dear friend of mine, Ellyn. Ellyn and I worked together many years ago. She loved crab, so to pay homage to her, and our longtime friendship I came up with a twist on crab rangoons. This is my Crab Rangoon Souffle. Thanks for all the great memories.

To see more of my recipe videos, search Always Home Cooked on YouTube.

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Chives (2)

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Crab Rangoon Souffle (2)

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Crab Rangoon Souffle (3)

Crab Rangoon Souffle (1)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Souffle Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 1 (8-cup) souffle dish, 1 (10-cup) food processor, 1 rimmed baking sheet pan, food processor,  large mixing bowl, medium-size mixing bowl, 1 (3-quart) saucepan, 1 (6-quart) saucepan, large whisk, oven thermometer

1 pound of crab meat, jumbo lump
6 tablespoons of butter, unsalted, reserve 3 tablespoons for greasing the dish
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly ground (using a food processor)
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 cup of scalded milk
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
a pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
4 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
5 extra-large egg whites, room temperature
5 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
4 tablespoons of fresh chives, finely minced

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.

Prepare the souffle dish with butter and grated Parmesan cheese, making sure the entire inside surface is coated with both, shake off any excess.

Prepare the lump crab by checking for any shells. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pat dry the lump crab with another piece of paper towel making sure the crab is completely dry of any moisture before transferring to a medium-size mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, add milk and bring up to temperature over medium heat. Once the milk reaches the scalding point turn off the heat. 

In a saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add all-purpose flour whisking constantly for about a minute forming a *roux. Once the mixture has formed a thick, blonde color (refer to picture above) remove the pan from the heat. Add the freshly grated nutmeg, cayenne pepper, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, whisk to combine.

Return the pan back on the heat, add the *scalded milk whisking continuously. Turn the heat up to medium, when the sauce just starts to boil, the sauce is at its thickest consistency. Test by placing a wooden spoon into the mixture and when you pull the spoon out and swipe your finger down the back of the spoon, if the sauce on the spoon remains separated, it’s ready. Turn off the heat.

Transfer the pot onto a cutting board, while the mixture is still hot vigorously whisk in the egg yolks one at a time until all are incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula, add the room temperature cream cheese, by gently smashing up the cream cheese, and mixing, until it’s incorporated throughout. After mixing, if there are a few bigger pieces that’s fine.

Next, add the jumbo lump crab and stir through.

Immediately before placing a souffle into the oven, adjust the temperature to 375-degrees F.

Place the egg whites into a large clean/dry mixing bowl. Add cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt. Using a large whisk, beat the egg whites until they form firm shiny peaks. This will take a few minutes. You could do this in an electric mixer. Gently stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the prepared souffle mixture. The mixture will look slightly lighter. Very gently, fold in the rest of the whites. Pour the completed mixture into the prepared souffle dish. Without peeking, bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

I like to serve my Crab Rangoon Souffle with a simple salad of mixed greens, lightly dressed with my Lemon Vinaigrette, and topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

*Scalded Milk is milk heated to a near boil. Small bubbles will appear around the inner rim of the pot.
*Roux is a mixture of fat (especially butter) and flour used in making sauces.

Vinaigrettes, Balsamic, Cilantro-Lime, And Lemon

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