Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Puff Pastry Wrapped With French Brie Cheese, Strawberry Honey Jam, And Walnuts- A Thanksgiving Day Brunch




This holiday I’m making brunch for some friends. They’re going to be making the turkey, ham, and all the sides. I thought it is a nice gesture to bring them a couple of my special brunch items. I’m also going to bring my stuffing muffins and frittata muffins.

Most of the time, people are always dropping by throughout the day.  I thought it would be really nice if there were food there that could be served at room temperature.

First, my Puff Pastry Wrapped French Brie Cheese with Strawberry Honey Jam and Walnuts.

Second, are my MiniItalianSausage, Asparagus, and Truffle Fontina Cheese Frittatas.

Finally, were my Stuffing Muffins, filled with my sweet Italian Sausage, golden raisins, celery, onions, and fresh sage.

For this post, I’m going to share my recipe for my Puff Pastry Wrapped French Brie Cheese With Strawberry Honey Jam And Walnuts.  The other two recipes will follow soon.

Equipment: baking sheet, pastry brush
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Oven Temperature: 400 degrees F.
Cook Time: 15 minutes or until golden brown

1 sheet of cold thawed puff pastry
1-13 ounce ( 5 inches in diameter) Brie cheese wheel
3 tablespoons of strawberry honey jam ( or fig jam)
2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts
egg wash- 1 beaten egg + 1 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons of Apricot jelly
1 tablespoon of very hot  water
5 inches of kitchen twine
Sanding sugar

Note: Remove the puff pastry, the night before, from the freezer, and transfer it to the refrigerator. The dough needs to be cold but completely thawed.

On your board, lay out one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the sheet out until it’s 1/8 inch in thickness. You want to make sure it’s large enough to cover the wheel of Brie and come together to be tied at the top. Refer to the pictures above. Transfer the pastry carefully to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Lay the wheel in the center of the rectangle shaped pastry. Using a spoon, add the jam over the top of the cheese and spread to cover the entire top of the wheel. Next, sprinkle on the chopped walnuts.

Bring each of the sides up to the top collecting them to come together at the top center so it can be tied up like a package. Using the kitchen twine, tie the overlapping pastry at the top together. Using your fingers spread the pastry out where it meets together at the top for presentation. Trim the twine as close as possible so as not to see the string.

Brush the entire pastry package with egg wash. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

In a small bowl, whisk together the apricot jelly and hot water together until there are no lumps. Once the pastry is out of the oven, brush the apricot glaze all over the outside of the pastry. Sprinkle sanding sugar liberally all over. Carefully cut the twine.

Let rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into. Serve with your favorite crackers.

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Maple Bourbon Brined Turkey

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This is my traditional recipe for making a turkey. My maple bourbon brine is the start. Echoing those flavors, I finish, with a maple bourbon gravy. The brine process starts 24 hours before the bird goes into the oven. It’s a lot of steps, all of which are easy and necessary, to have the most flavorful and tender turkey you’ll ever eat. This recipe has quite of few steps, but all are fairly easy. It’s really all in the planning.

Before starting the whole brine process, the turkey must me completely thawed. My recipe is listed in 3 parts. Part 1 is the brine. Part 2 is the prep of the turkey for the oven. Part three is cooking the turkey and making the gravy.

Part 1:
Process For The Brine -12 pound Turkey
Equipment:1 large plastic container with tight fitting lid and 1 large stock pot
Prep Time: 40-45 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 24 hours plus 15 minutes

Cook Time: Bring the brine up to a boil then turn the heat off.
Place the brine into the refrigerator to chill completely.

2 quarts water
2 orange peels
1 lemon peel
3 cloves of smashed garlic
1/4 cup of Kosher salt
1-1/2 cups of bourbon
1-1/2  12 ounce bottles of pure maple syrup
15 sprigs of thyme  (no need to strip leaves)
1 large sprig of Rosemary ( no need to strip leaves)
5 bay leaves (dried)
2 tablespoons of tricolor peppercorns
1-1/2 cups of organic apple juice
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

Prep all the ingredients for the brine including measuring out the water. Place all the ingredients listed above in a large stock pot. Turn stove on med high heat and bring everything up to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat source. Let the brine cool down, then place it into the frig, uncovered to chill, for around 30-35 minutes  or until completely cool.

Remove turkey from its packaging and remove the neck and innards from the cavities of the bird. The only part I keep is the neck to make turkey stock from. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Completely pat dry the turkey really well. Place the bird into the brine container and back into the frig until the brine liquid has cooled.

Once the brine is ready and completely cooled, take the turkey in the brine container out and pour the liquid over the bird. The bird should be completely submerged in the liquid. Place the lid on and refrigerate for 24 hours. A quick note: Take notice on what time you place the bird into the brine. This will give you an idea of when the bird will be going into the oven. Allow an extra 20 minutes for rinsing the brine off the bird and letting it soak in clean water for 15 minutes. This will remove any extra salt flavor still on the bird. Then once again you will need to dry the turkey completely before part 2.

Part 2:
Once the bird has come out of the brine and well dried, it’s time to make a compound butter ( flavored butter) for the turkey. I have softened room temperature butter in a bowl. I add to that grated garlic, lemon and orange zest, Kosher salt, and black pepper. I mix all those ingredients together. With my clean hands!, I lift up the skin on the breast area, and slather as much of the butter underneath the skin as possible. Reaching as far around with breaking or tearing the skin. Next, I fill both cavities of the bird with flavorings.

Part 2:
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Equipment: Roasting pan with rack
Cooking Time: about 2 hours 40 minutes
1 stick of softened unsalted butter
zest of an orange
zest of a lemon
2 cloves of grated garlic
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 onion
1 head of garlic cut in half lengthwise
10 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of rosemary
1/4 cup  of Olive oil
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock- generally 2 cups (enough to fill the bottom of the roasting pan with liquid, having the level of liquid about 1 inch high). 1 quart is used to make the turkey stock

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl place the softened butter. Add the zest of both the lemon and orange. Grate both garlic cloves and add that along with Kosher salt and black pepper. Mix all the ingredients together.Moving on, I release the birds legs from their packaging position as you see in the pictures.

Next, the same lemon and orange used for their zest, cut in half. Place one half of each one into each of the cavities. Then the garlic bulb. Again, place one half in each cavity. To those I add the 1 onion, peel still on, that I’ve quartered in both cavities. Finally, divide the sprigs of herbs up and place them into both cavity.

Now I rub the compound butter underneath the skin, reaching as far as you can without breaking the skin. Next, I rub the olive oil all over the outside of the bird. Then I sprinkle the  Kosher salt, and black pepper all over the turkey. Finally, I add the 2 cups of broth to the bottom of the roasting pan.

Part 3:

Place the turkey into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Every 30-45 minutes remove the turkey from the oven. Close the oven door to keep the heat in, and baste the turkey, using the juices from the bottom of the pan. About halfway through the cooking process, take the temperature of the turkey using a meat thermometer. Place the thermometer between the thigh and the breast meat for the best reading. This allows you to see how fast the bird is cooking and to gauge the time better. If you see the top is browning to quickly, place a foil tent over the turkey for the time remaining. Keeping in mind, that you still need to baste the turkey every 30-45 minutes or so. Once the turkey’s temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 2 hours 40 minutes, take the bird out of the oven.

Once the turkey is in the oven, this is what I’m doing on top of the stove.

I have the turkey neck place in the bottom of a large sauce pot. I cover the neck with 1 quart of unsalted chicken stock, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper,  and 3 sprigs of thyme. Turn the heat up to med-high heat and bring this up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook, on med low heat,  for about 1/1/2 hours. Once finished,  I strain the liquid, using a sieve, over a bowl to catch this delicious stock. Now I have a container of turkey stock along with a container with my leftover unsalted chicken stock (remember I only used 2 cups for the bottom of the roasting pan) to make my gravy.

At this point, remove the bird from the pan. I like to tilt the bird slightly over the roasting pan, so that any juices that are in the cavities will fall to the bottom of the pan. Place the turkey on a large board and cover with foil until you ready to carve. Leave all the ingredients, in the cavities.

Directions For Gravy:
3 tablespoons of bourbon
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
12 sage leaves (reserve 4 leaves chopped for the finished gravy)
1-1/2 cups of turkey stock
1 cup of unsalted chicken stock
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of flour
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

First, I throw in the 8 sage leaves while the juices are still really hot. I just let them steep in the juices for a couple of minutes, then I remove them. I use one of those gadgets that separates the fat from the juices that accumulated in the bottom of the roasting pan. I discard the fat and pour the juices into a bowl.

I return the empty roasting pan to the stove, on med high heat.  I add in 1/4 cup of the turkey stock I made. Scraping the bits off the bottom until they all release. I also add these juices with the pan juices in the bowl. Now my pan juices have no fat but the extra flavor from the bits that came off the bottom of the pan.

Now I’m working with a clean roasting pan again, and I have it set to medium heat. To the pan I add in the butter. Let the butter melt then add in the flour. Whisking continuously until all the raw flour has cooked out. Next, I add in the pan juices that I reserved in the bowl along with the bourbon, maple syrup, chicken stock, and the turkey stock. I turn the heat back up to med-high heat, still whisking, and let all those ingredients come up to a bubble and thicken. I also add in the reserved chopped sage leaves for color and flavor in the gravy.


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Roasted Acorn Squash With A Sausage And Pear Stuffing



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My favorite part of any stuffing is, the crunchy and caramelized topping that occurs in the last minutes of cooking. How the croutons become golden brown, the pears release their sugars and glisten from that slight char, and the crunchy exterior of the sweet Italian sausage. Yet inside, the stuffing is soft and flavorful. Let me start by telling you how I roast these beautiful winter squash and how I bring their flavors out before filling them with all of the goodness.

I have here two types of acorn squash. I cut the tops off first, then I remove the all the seeds carefully not to dig too far in and disrupt the inside bottom of the squash. I cut a small slice off the bottom. You want to make sure that you don’t cut too much where you get a hole in the bottom. You just want the squash to sit upright on the baking trays while roasting. These beauties will be the vessels that will hold the stuffing. I drizzle each one with olive oil, Kosher salt, and black pepper. They go right into a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until fork tender.

In a small bowl I melt a stick of butter, then I add in brown sugar, and chili powder. I mix all those ingredients until combined. I like to take a fork and prick the squash all over the inside so when I brush the acorn squash with the flavored butter, they will really absorb those flavors. The oven still at 400 degrees, I place them back in for another 5-7 minutes, keeping a close eye so they don’t burn. I’ll take them out of the oven and set them aside for a few minutes. At this point the squash are ready and can be eaten just like they are, but I’m not quite done yet. I’m going to bake off the croutons for the stuffing.

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For the stuffing, I’m starting by browning off skinless sweet Italian sausage. I break up the sausage with the back of a wooden spoon. With the stove on medium high heat, I let the sausage saute until it is fully cooked. I want it to be brown and crumbly. This takes about 15 minutes. then I place the cooked sausage on a plate lined with paper towel so it will be able to drain off any excess fat. While this is happening I start working on chopping the veggies up that will be going into the stuffing.

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For the veggies and herbs, I have diced cremini mushrooms, zucchini, celery, onions, Bosc pears, minced garlic, and chopped fresh sage. I’ts important that all the veggies are relatively cut the same size. This way they will cook and be done at the same time.

In a large saute pan, on medium heat,  I have two tablespoons of butter along with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once that’s melted I add in the chopped sage leaves. This allows them to release their oils and perfume the butter and oil. Once you start to smell the sage it’s ready to add in the other ingredients.

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I then, toss in all the veggies, with a tablespoon of Kosher salt and  a teaspoon of black pepper. I let them saute, on medium  high heat long enough to get some color on them. This should only take about 5-7 minutes. As the veggies are sauteing, I work on cutting up 1/2 a loaf of Citabatta bread into cubes. The cubes are about 1-1/2 inches in size. Because I got a head start roasting the acorn squash, this allowed the oven to be freed up.

Now that the oven has been freed up and the acorn squash are resting on the side lines. the sausage has been cooked. The veggies are sauteing on the stove. The Ciabatta has been cubed up and the temperature to the oven is still at 400 degrees F. Drizzle some olive oil all over the top, with a sprinkling of Kosher salt and black pepper. Spread them out in a single layer onto two baking sheets. Place them into the oven a bake for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. You just want them to be a light golden brown.

Once all the veggies have sauteed, I add the sausage to the veggies with come chili powder and the diced pears. I saute this for just a couple of minutes together allowing the flavors to marry. About 3-5 minutes more.

At this point I transfer all the ingredients to a bowl and add some Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese and the baked croutons. I gently give all this a toss to combine. Now the squash are ready to be stuffed.

One final step. They get a drizzle of olive oil over the top of each one and go back into the 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Just long enough to get the tops golden brown and caramelized.

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I know it’s a few steps to pull this dish together. Really all the steps are easy. It’s just a matter of having all the prep done and roasting the acorn squash first. I’ll explain in more detail in the directions at the end.

Recipe For Roasted Squash:
Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Oven Temp: 400 degrees F.
Cooking Time: 45-50 minutes
4 acorn squash that have been seeded and tops and bottoms cut
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 stick of unsalted melted butter
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1/4 cup of dark brown sugar

Start by cutting the tops off the 4 squash. Next, clean the seeds out of the inside. Then cut a thin slice off the bottom of each one so they will sit upright on the baking sheets. Place 2 on each sheet tray. Next drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt, black pepper. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes or until fork tender. Then brush the inside of each squash with the flavored butter mixture and return to oven for another 5-7 minutes. Be sure to keep a close eye on the squash for the last few minutes of cooking. You don’t want them to burn. Once finished roasting, take them out and let them rest for a few minutes before adding the stuffing to them.

Yields:  4 stuffed squash
Oven Temp: 400 degrees F.
Equipment: 4 baking sheet pans
Prep Time: 15 minutes
1 pound of bulk sweet Italian sausage
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 diced Bosc pears
1 diced zucchini
6 diced cremini mushrooms
1/2 a diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 ribs of diced celery
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 heaping cups of 1-/1/2 inch diced Ciabatta croutons

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Next start by prepping the acorn squash. Cutting the tops,  removing the seeds, then, slightly taking a small slice off the bottoms of each squash. Place two on each baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil onto each one with a sprinkling of Kosher salt and black pepper. Place into oven and roast hem for 35-40 minutes or until fork tender.

After the squash are in the oven, brown off the sausage. The sausage takes about 15 minutes to be fully cooked and crumbly. While the that’s happening, chop the veggies for the stuffing. Transfer the sausage to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.

At this point, set the stove to medium heat, add the butter, olive oil, and chopped sage leaves to a large saute pan. Start sauteing the veggies with the chili powder, salt and pepper.Once the veggies have started to soften, then add in the diced pears. This should take 5-7 minutes.

As the veggies are sauteing, cube up half the loaf of Ciabatta bread. Place them on two baking sheets. Drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Transfer the cooked sausage and veggies to a large bowl. To the bowl add in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Remove the squash from the oven and place the bread cubes in at the same temperature for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. You just want crunchy golden croutons.

Once they come out of the oven, add them to the bowl with the other ingredients. Gently toss everything together and fill the acorn squash with the stuffing. I usually have a little left over, that I place into a small ceramic dish. It can go into the oven with the squash. Place everything back into the 400 degree oven for about 3-5 minutes, until the tops are a nice golden brown.

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Homemade Chocolate Bark Lolly Pops

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1 block each of white and chocolate (almond chocolate blocks, works for melting in the microwave)
peppermint candies
dried apricots
dried cranberries
chopped pistachios
mini chocolate candies
butterscotch, white, and chocolate morsels
candied pineapple
unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons of ground Chipotle spice (more if you like it spicier)
1 24-ct package of lolly pop sticks (with the wrapper and ribbons included)

I’ve chopped all the chocolate and placed them into large bowls with smaller ones next to them. Chopping the chocolate ensures for even melting, and will prevent the chocolate from burning. I even undercook it a little because the heat will melt the rest of the chocolate as you stir it. The larger bowls are for melting and making into the actual pops. The smaller bowls are also for melting and then drizzling over the opposite flavor of chocolate in the end. Follow the instructions on the package of chocolates for melting in the microwave. To the white chocolate, I added the Chipotle powder for a little heat. I love to see the specks of ground Chipotle running through the white chocolate. I’ve lined baking sheets with parchment paper to make for easy removal later. After the chocolate is melted I take a tablespoon as a way to keep them all the same size. I spoon out 1 tablespoon onto the parchment paper, spreading the chocolate out into a circular pattern. I then lay the lolly pop stick down into the chocolate. The melted chocolate will cover the stick as it’s placed into the chocolate. Quickly before the chocolate hardens, you want to add whatever topping you choose to each one. I like to mix and match different toppings.  After they have hardened, I like to take some of the opposite flavors of chocolate, on a few of them and drizzle that over the chocolate lollipops. Usually, the lolly pop sticks will come with clear plastic wrappers and ribbons. Then all I did was to place them into my wooden tree for a centerpiece on my buffet table.

a variety of toppings, (how much depends on how many pops your going to make.) Here I’m using about 1/4 cup of each for 24 lolly pops, 12 of each. (Any leftover chocolate I use to make shards of bark with and set out in a candy dish for any guests who may drop by.)

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