Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

California Style BLT With Avocado

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A Bacon Lettuce And Tomato sandwich is a staple in American cuisine. Having only a few simple items means, I need to use the best ingredients I can find. That way I can take this sandwich to a different level of deliciousness. A thick cut apple smoked  bacon, thick sliced heirloom tomatoes and leafy greens makes for a great sandwich. Avocado gives this sandwich a taste of California.

Then there’s the bread. It has to be one that compliments what’s inside. I think buttered and toasted Ciabatta bread is the answer.

8 slices of thick cut apple wood bacon
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thick
leafy greens
1 sliced avocado
pesto mayo

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.
Place the rack in the lower third of the oven. I use a foiled covered baking sheet with a rack. This makes for crispier bacon because it cooks the bacon from all sides.  The bacon should take anywhere from 15-20 minutes. Check the bacon progress after 12 minutes. Once fully cooked, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel.

On medium heat, in a cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Then rub one side of the bread in the butter and flip it over and rub the other side. Once both sides have butter on them I let them toast upright in the pan. I’d say about 2 minutes per side.

I like to spread a light coating of *pesto mayo on each the top and bottom slice before placing the lettuce down first, then the bacon, then tomato, with a very light sprinkling of Kosher salt, and then the avocado with another sprinkling of Kosher salt and black pepper. Finally finishing off with the top slice of buttered Ciabatta. This is my secret to making a great BLT With Avocado.

*pesto mayonnaise
Mix 1/2 cup of mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon of fresh basil pesto.


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Slow Cooker Pot Roast

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I have to believe that one of the most beloved dishes ever made is Pot Roast. I’ve never come across anyone who didn’t adore this one pot meal until now. That’s right until now! Steve doesn’t like stews of any kind. I thought… how can I turn him around? This challenge is one I’m up for! One things for sure, you won’t need a knife for this Pot Roast.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
Yields: 4-6 servings
Equipment: Cast iron skillet, Slow Cooker
3 pound chuck roast
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
2 onions chopped in quarters
5 cloves of sliced garlic
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 quarts of unsalted beef stock (reserve 1/2 cup for slurry)(Note: the liquid may vary depending on the size of the slow cooker. You want the liquid to come up 3/4’s of the way up the sides of the meat)
2-6 ounce packages of chopped organic baby colored carrots (cut into thirds)
5 medium size quartered Yukon gold potatoes
2 pints of cleaned whole Cremini mushrooms
Slurry: 1/2 cup of unsalted beef stock whisked together with 3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch

I needed to start with a pan that could take this 3 pound piece of chuck roast over the top. Yes, an affordable yet so forgiving piece of chuck roast. I compare this piece of meat to the Boston pork butt of the beef family. Lots of marbling and fat running through it. Cooking low and slow, this fat will melt and add so much flavor to the finished chuck roast. I’m not a fan of meat having a lot of fat, but for this dish it’s necessary. Later in this post I show you how I get rid of a majority of it before the dish is ready to serve.

First, I start with a cast iron skillet. I like to take a piece of paper towel, pour a few drops of Canola oil on it, then wipe the pan with the oiled towel. Place the pan on the burner and turn it up to a med high heat. Just as it starts to smoke, lay the meat right on it. Now matter what, don’t fuss with it. The meat will let you know when it’s ready to flip. How can you tell? Well after about 4-5 minutes, take you tongs, and try to lift the piece of meat up. If it gives you no resistance, then it’s ready to flip. Repeat this process for the other side. Once both side are beautifully caramelized, set the chuck roast onto a plate and set aside for a minute. Note: while the meat is searing, cut up the onions and garlic.

The next phase is the slow cooker. Start by layering the quartered onions at the bottom of the pot, along with sliced garlic. To the slow cooker pot  I add in the meat, nestled just right on top,  with tomato paste and two sprigs of fresh rosemary. Then for the liquid, I add unsalted beef stock to the meat and onions. Just enough to where it comes up 3/4’s up the sides of the chuck roast.  Place the lid on, and set the time for 4 hours.

Three and a half hours in, I start chopping up the vegetables that I’ll be adding to the pot. Yukon gold potatoes that I’ve quartered, organic colored baby carrots cut into thirds, and whole Cremini mushrooms that have been cleaned. At this point, I remove the chuck roast and place it on a cutting board. Place all the potatoes in first, then carrots and mushrooms into the slow cooker. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.

What I like to do at this point is… the meat is starting to get somewhat tender. I’ts easy enough at this point to remove any connective fatty pieces. I trim those all off and cut the meat into large chunks. Place the meat back in over the veggies and continue cooking for another 2 hours.

During this part of the cooking process, the veggies will release their water and the meat will submerge back into the juices.

After the six hours is up, the slow cooker is at a nice slow boil. This is when I make a slurry. This is a thickening agent.  This is when you mix cornstarch together with liquid. In this case I whisk it together with unsalted beef broth. Remember, my goal is to make the most delicious pot roast ever and to get Steve to agree. Thickening the broth will make the sauce a little thicker than just an Au jus style broth.

Add the slurry right in, give a gentle stir to combine, and let the cornstarch work it’s magic. Another 10 minutes is all it takes. Turn the slow cooker to the warm setting until your ready to serve.

To serve, I like add the potatoes and vegetables in the bottom of the bowl first. Place the meat on top and ladle that delicious sauce over everything. This dish does not require a knife. The meat is so tender that it will break apart using only a fork. After Steve took his first bite, he said, “This is the best pot roast I’ve ever had!”




Cabbage Soup

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Cabbage soup has to be one of my very favorites when it comes to food for the soul. I find, if your a fan of stuffed cabbage than you will love this soup. For this soup, I’m using an 8 quart stock pot. This size pot will hold enough liquid and cabbage needed for this recipe. I’m also using Savoy cabbage (green cabbage is fine as well) and a 90% lean ground sirloin which will make for a healthier and better tasting soup.

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Yields, 6 servings
Equipment: 8 quart stock pot
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2-1/2 pounds ground sirloin
5 cups of chopped Savoy cabbage ( or green cabbage)
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced carrots
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup of quick cooking rice  (quick cooking rice in a bag)
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
2 cups of good tomato juice
Home-made croutons for garnish
Grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese for garnish

The very first thing I do is to prep all the veggies that will be going into the soup so they will be ready for me when I need them. This includes the onions ,garlic, carrots, and cabbage.

So I just start out with a little olive oil in the bottom of the pot. You need that because the meat is very lean. On med high heat, I add the ground sirloin, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, and start the browning process.  To the ground sirloin, I add in the Kosher salt, black pepper, tomato paste, and some crushed red pepper flakes. Once the meat has browned completely, about 5-7 minutes,

I add in the diced onions and minced garlic. I cook those together letting the onions start to soften, another couple of minutes. Next, the diced carrots, stirring those through. I let all this cook together for another 5 minutes.

With the stove still on med- high heat, I add in the unsalted chicken stock. Once the stock is added, carefully, with my wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that may be stock to the bottom of the pot.  Lowering the heat to medium,  I slowly add in the chopped Savoy cabbage. Using the wooden spoon to push the cabbage down into the liquid.

As the Savoy cabbage softens and has all been submerged into the chicken stock, I add in a cup of quick cooking rice. All that is, is the rice you can buy and cook in the pouch. I just remove it from the pouch and add it right into the pot. I let all this simmer (adjust the heat, if needed, to a slow simmer) for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Finally, the very last ingredient I add is tomato juice. I add that right at the end, stirring it completely through. I then turn the heat off and cover the soup. Letting all those flavors mingle together for about 10 minutes or so before serving. Remove the bay leaves before serving.  I garnish with some home-made Ciabatta croutons and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You can find my recipe for my homemade croutons very easily. Type, Ciabatta croutons into the “search bar” at the top of my home page.

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Mussels Three Ways

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Mussels In Tomato Sauce













Mussel Chowder

I decided to look back at my recipe for mussels and update them. I’ve come to the realization it’s better all the way around to make the sauce separate, Instead of cooking the mussels in the sauce. Let me explain…

In the past, I’ve written my recipes for mussel dishes using 2 pounds of mussels. Well, it’s just never enough. Between Steve and me, we can eat a serious amount of mussels, and we always wish we had more. Then I thought, what if a friend should drop by unexpectedly! It just wouldn’t be right not to offer them a dish of these delicious little gems. My new method allows me to buy quite of bit more mussels. At $3.99 for a 2-pound bag, I found myself buying 6 bags. I couldn’t help myself!

The other issue is, preparing them in the sauce and then having to store the leftover mussels. They can get “mealy”. Remember that most recipes call for wine and leaving the mussels in the sauce overnight can break them down quickly. They never taste the same or hold their integrity.

This method will take care of all these issues. Also, I have a great leftover recipe that I’m going to share with you in this post. Mussel chowder.

I’ve bought 12-2 pound bags of PEI or Prince Edward Island mussels at my local seafood store. Yes, that’s a lot of mussels but, after going through all of them, you may find ones that are open and are no longer alive. Those are the ones that are open. You can do a quick test by giving them a good thump with your fingers and they don’t close, get rid of them. They are no good. Then you may find some with a chipped shell from the shipping process. Get rid of them. Next, when you’re scrubbing the outside shells from sand and whatnot and removing their beards. You know, those hairy beards that emerge from their shells. Those hairy membranes allow the mussels to attach themselves to stable surfaces. Look, everything that’s worthwhile means putting in some love. Great seafood recipes are no different.

I start by getting to the seafood shop as soon as it opens, about 7 am. All 6-2 pound bags are packed on ice for the ride home. Then it becomes a family project. You really don’t know how many may be damaged from the shipping or just might be dead. I take this into consideration when buying a large amount like this.  Steve has two chairs set up outside with a couple of brushes, ice, and two buckets of water for cleaning and rinsing the babies off. He doesn’t mind doing the work because he knows about the payoff. It takes the two of us about 45 minutes to clean, remove all the beards, and discard any dead ones. When all is said and done, the 12 pounds of mussels, I bought, end up being a good 10 pounds of perfection. Keep in mind, we’re talking about 95% “shell weight” here!

Next, I fill up my sink with water adding in a couple of tablespoons of flour. Using my hands I swish the flour and water around to allow the flour to combine with the water. To the water, I dump in all the cleaned mussels. Mussels act like a filter and will drink the water with the flour in it and spit it back out, along with any sand them may have inside their shells. This process only takes a couple of minutes. I then drain the water from the sink and spray them down with clean water. I divide the mussels into three large Tupperware containers topped with ice. Place them back into the refrigerator and start on my sauce.

For the sauce, I have chopped onions, sliced fennel, and fresh garlic. In a large saucepan, on medium heat, I’ve melted unsalted butter along with crushed red pepper flakes. Once the butter has melted, I add in the onions and  Kosher salt. I let the onions sweat for 3-5 minutes allowing them to soften before adding in the fennel. I stir together the fennel and onions together letting them cook for another 7-10 minutes. Next, I add in the garlic and a small amount of tomato paste. I keep stirring all the ingredients together giving the tomato paste a chance to cook and marry with the onions, fennel, and garlic.

At this point, it’s time to add in the liquid.

First, I start with a dry white wine. I turn the heat up to med-high, then  I pour the wine into the sauce pot. Next, I add in one quart each of seafood stock and unsalted chicken stock. I like to combination of the flavor of the two stocks, but you can add all seafood stock if you prefer. To that, I add in 2 tablespoons of Pernod ( an anise flavor liqueur), which enhances the flavor of the seafood and fennel. Pernod can be a strong flavor so you don’t need much at all. Remember this sauce is for 10 pounds of mussels so 2 tablespoons are perfect. Finally, the special ingredient, Saffron. Saffron is little red threads that come from the Crocus flower. I would have to say this is the most expensive spice in the world. A very small amount brings a lot of flavors and brings a beautiful color to the sauce.

Once everything comes up to a boil, then I lower the heat to med-low and let everything simmer for 20-30 minutes.

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Once the 30 minutes is up, place a lid on the pot, set the pot on a  back burner on warm.

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While my sauce is simmering away, this gives me around 30 minutes to start steaming my mussels. Now, because there are so many, I do have them divided into 3 containers in the frig, as I explained earlier. My plan is to cook them all off. I have an empty deep stock pot that I have heating up on med-high heat with the lid on. I’ve taken the mussels out of the frig and separated them from the ice.  I’m doing this in three batches. I know that I could probably fit all the mussels at one time into the pot, but I want to ensure that they all steam evenly.

Once the ice has been removed and the mussels are sitting in another large pot just waiting their turn, I take the first batch and dump them right into the large stock pot. I immediately pour the whole of the bottle of Chardonnay right over the top and quickly place the lid back on. After about 3 minutes, I open the lid, give them a big stir using my trusty spider, to see how they’re coming along. You want all the mussels to have opened before removing them from the pot. I would say for each batch ( a little over 3 pounds) it takes anywhere from 5-7 minutes. The times could vary slightly.

I pull out all of the opened mussels from the pot and place them into the same, cleaned out,  Tupperware containers that I used earlier. I just repeat this process two more times. No need to add any more wine to the pot. The first batch of mussels also released some of their juices as well. The pot is still on the heat and the liquid is still at a bubble. Add the second batch in carefully, and place the lid on immediately again. The second two batches may cook slightly quicker.

Once all the mussels have been steamed, they’re ready for the ladling of the sauce. Oh yes, don’t forget to serve some crusty bread for dipping too!

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Next day, Mussels in Tomato Sauce.

Mussels In Tomato Sauce

Next day, CHOWDER!

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This couldn’t be easier. You have the mussels already cooked. All you need to do is to remove them from their shells. The base for the soup is pretty much ready, just a few more ingredients need to be added to finish that off.

Ingredients For Mussel Chowder:
For this dish, I’m taking some store-bought shortcuts. I’m using thawed frozen corn, and 1 package of par-cooked, peeled, and diced potatoes. You can find these in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. I’m also adding in a diced red bell pepper.

Directions For The Mussel Chowder:
Place the leftover sauce from the mussels on the stove. Add in the diced potatoes. On med heat bring this up a slow bubble, and just turn it down and simmer, giving the potatoes time to finish cooking. At the same time, I’m adding in one finely diced red bell pepper. No need to saute the pepper first. It will soften and cook while the potatoes are cooking. Let all this simmer on the stove for about 30-35 minutes.

Once the potatoes are tender, add in 1 heaping cup of thawed frozen corn. Next, add in the mussels. Stir that through and turn the heat back up to med-high heat.  In a small bowl take 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon or just enough water to make a thick slurry or paste. Whisk those together and pour the slurry into the soup. Bring the soup back up to a boil. You’ll see once the soup boils again, the soup will have thickened. Turn the heat off and add in 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir through. Garnish with some fresh flat leaf Italian parsley. You now have had one of the most delicious mussel chowders you’ve ever tasted.

Prep Time: 1 hour ( this includes prepping the mussels and veggies for the sauce)
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45-50 minutes (  this includes sauce, times may vary on mussels)
Equipment: large stock pot and a spider
Yields: 4-2 pound servings of mussels in shells
Yields: 2 servings of mussel chowder
10 pounds of mussels in their shells cleaned
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes ( optional)
2 cups of diced fennel
2 -1/2 cups of diced sweet onions
10 cloves of minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart of seafood stock
1 quart of unsalted chicken stock
2 tablespoons of Pernod
1 teaspoon of Saffron threads
Italian parsley for garnish and extra flavor

Directions for making mussels:

Prep and clean all the mussels first. Chop of all the veggies for the sauce. In a large sauce pot, on med heat, and on a back burner, melt the butter. Add in the crushed red pepper flakes. Next, add in the veggies starting with the onions. Let the onions saute until soft but, no color on them. Next, add in the chopped fennel and tomato paste. Cook those together for another 7-10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir through for another minute or so. To those ingredients add the wine and stocks. At this point add the Saffron threads. Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Once the sauce is complete, turn the burner down to warm and place a lid on the pot.

While the sauce is simmering,  I get started on steaming the mussels in the white wine. Use a large stock pot that’s been heating up on the stove. I add the mussels to the pot. Right away, pour in a whole bottle of dry white wine and place the lid on. Remember to do this in 3 batches so the mussels steam evenly. After being in the pot for about 3 minutes, using a spider, I give them a big stir. Place the lid back on and cook anywhere from 5-7 minutes. Times may vary slightly. Once all the mussels have opened, remove them from the pot, leaving the pot still at a boil, and repeat the process with the next batch. You do not need to add any more wine to the pot.

Once all the mussels have been steamed. Place them into large containers until you are ready to serve them up. Get yourself a large bowl and fill the bowl with those hot steamed mussels. Generously ladle some of that delicious and flavorful broth over the top. Sprinkle fresh leaf Italian parsley over the top and server with some crusty bread.

Note: Once the sauce for the mussels has cooled down, place in an airtight container with a lid. Refrigerate along with the leftover mussels until the next day when you’re ready to make the chowder.

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