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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

Lobster Mac & Cheese

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I’m pretty confident in saying, Mac and Cheese is the favorite comfort food for people of all ages. There are so many recipes out there from the classic version to endless variations of the classic. Chorizo and smoked Gouda, or how about butternut squash mac and cheese! The one I like to serve when entertaining is my Lobster Mac And Cheese. The lobster adds a delicate sweetness along with a variety of delicious cheeses and a flavorful crunchy topping complete the perfect recipe for Lobster Mac & Cheese.

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Prep Time: 1 hour (the time it takes to cook the lobsters for the casserole)
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
Equipment: 16-quart stockpot, 2 6-quart saucepots, 9 x 13 casserole dish, 2 large mixing bowls, colander, Microplane

Ingredients:
4 cups of lobster meat, large dice (equivalent to approx. three 1 1/2 lb lobsters)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter, unsalted, (4 tablespoons for greasing the baking dish)
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
4 cups of whole milk, *scalded
1 teaspoon of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of corn (optional)
1 cup of Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup of Brie cheese, without the rind, diced
2 cups of Fontina cheese, freshly grated (reserve 1 cup for the top)
3 tablespoon of fresh chives, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of tarragon leaves, chopped
2 16-ounce packages (2 pounds) of cooked Paccheri Rigati, just under al-dente ( large rigatoni shaped pasta, substitute rigatoni)

Topping:
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
3/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Directions:
Butter casserole dish.
For a 1 1/2 pound lobster, cook time is 15 to 20 minutes. Note: They need to be a vibrant red color when fully cooked.

Directions, How To Cook A Lobster:
Note: I prefer to cook lobsters one at a time.

Bring a 16-quart pot (a little over half filled) of well-salted water up to a rapid boil. Drop the lobster into the pot, quickly place the lid on. Using a towel, hold the lid in place for just a minute, giving the water a chance to come back up to a boil,  then start the cooking time. After about 15 to 20 minutes, remove the lobster from the pot and set aside to cool. Repeat this process two more times.

Boil 16 ounces (1 pound) of pasta just before the al dente stage, about 8 to 10 minutes, and drain. The pasta will finish cooking during the baking process.

Remove the lobster meat from the tails and claws. Chop the lobster meat into large chunks and place into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.

In a large saucepot melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continuously whisking the flour and butter to form a *roux. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes blond in color and paste-like, about 2 minutes. Again continue whisking while slowly adding the (*scalded) hot milk. Continue to whisk as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle in the grated nutmeg, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, continuously whisking until sauce becomes thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, switch to a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped tarragon, finely chopped chives, grated cheeses, and corn (optional). Last, add the cooked lobster meat. Mix to combined.

Add the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce stirring gently not to break up the pasta. Pour the entire mixture into the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle the reserved Fontina cheese evenly over the top.

For the crumb topping, add the melted butter to the Panko bread crumbs. Mix in the Italian flat-leaf parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Allow the casserole to rest for 15 minutes before serving. This is my Lobster Mac & Cheese.

*Roux is a mixture of fat (especially butter) and flour used in making sauces

*Scalded milk is milk heated to a near boil. Small bubbles will appear around the inner rim of the pot.

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A Ladies Luncheon At Lynn’s Home

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My very good friend Lynn asked me if I would have a cooking class/ luncheon at her home. Without hesitation, I said yes! Her home is located in the Historic district of Orlando. This was the perfect place for Lynn and her friends, Marian, Jean, Diane, Gloria, and Sandy to spend some quality time together. I thought it would be a great idea to put a menu together. Show the girls some tips, and cooking techniques that they could take home and use when they’re cooking for their families.

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Earlier in the week, Lynn and I met to iron out all the details. We came up with a plan and set it in motion. Gifts for the girls, a tablescape that would compliment the Italian theme, and then, of course, the menu. The day before the luncheon, I went shopping and found some great seasonal ingredients at the local farmers market in town. I wanted the centerpiece for the table to also echo a few of the ingredients I was using. A large rustic bowl filled with pink grapefruits, lemons, fennel fronds, and fresh bay leaves.

Menu:
Peach Bellinis
Cheese Board, Parmesan, Parmigiano- Reggiano, and Grana Padano
Fennel Salad With Grapefruit, Red Onion and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese garnished with edible flowers
Kale And White Bean Soup
Homemade croutons
Eton Mess By Way Of Italy (menu category -desserts)
Peach And Fresh Mint Iced Tea

I set up a small cheese board filled with shards of different types of Parmesan cheeses. The saltiness of the cheeses paired really well with the cocktail I made. I chose to serve Peach Bellinis  Fresh peach puree mixed with Prosecco sparkling wine, garnished with a strawberry. A traditional cocktail that originated in Venice, Italy.

I went through the steps for each course step by step. The ladies were taking notes which made me feel pretty special. They asked great questions and I think they went away realizing that when you use fresh and seasonal ingredients, cooking can be fun as well as delicious. I want to say that these were some of the sweetest ladies and I hope that we’ll be able to get together again in the near future. Lynn, I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to help you with this amazing luncheon.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 to 40 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 2 6-quart Dutch ovens with lids

Recipe For Kale And Cannellini Bean Soup:
Know as Beans And Greens Soup
All ingredients divided evenly into two 6 quart heavy bottom pots

2 bunches of fresh kale, stems and center rib removed coarsely chopped
4 15-ounce cans of white Cannellini beans -drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 stalks of celery diced halved and coarsely chopped
2 large onions coarsely chopped
8 carrots peeled and 1/2 inch diced
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of grated fresh nutmeg
2 Fresno chilis seeded and minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
8 cups of water (amount of water may vary slightly)
2 2-inch pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt (1 tablespoon per pot)
1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper (1/2 teaspoon per pot)
2 fresh bay leaves ( dried are fine)
2 teaspoons of freshly chopped rosemary leaves
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
*E.V.O.O drizzle (drizzle on top as a finish to the soup)
Accompaniment: homemade croutons

Note: smoked sausage is an option to add to this soup (slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick pieces)

Directions:
Turn the burners to medium-high heat allowing the two heavy bottom pot to heat up. Remember that all the ingredients will be evenly divided into the two pots. Once the pots have come up to temperature, adjust the temperature to medium. Add in the olive oil, diced onions, minced Fresno chili, celery, diced carrots, and tomato paste. Stir all the ingredients together cook until vegetables start to soften, around 10 minutes. Make sure to season as you go by adding Kosher salt, black pepper to taste.

Add the minced garlic, bay leaves, and freshly chopped rosemary leaves continue to stir. About 3 to 5 minutes in, add in the unsalted chicken stock, cheese rinds. Slowly add in the half of the chopped kale leaves to each pot. Using a spoon, start to submerge the leaves into the liquid. Next, slowly add in the water and the rest of the chopped kale. This is the point is where you’ll be able to see if you have enough liquid, (refer to the pictures above) allowing 3 inches of space at the top of each pot.

The kale will wilt as it cooks, and most of the ingredients will also release their water. Not to worry, (cooking soup uncovered) as the soup comes up to a boil, water will also evaporate as the soup cooks. Now, the drained Cannellini beans. Next, it’s time to add the 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and the freshly grated nutmeg to each pot. Stir all the ingredients together. Bring the soup up to a boil, reduce the temperature and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until the kale and carrots are tender. Once finished, cover the soup pots until ready to serve.

Serve in porcelain bowls with grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, and a drizzle of good *E.V.O.O.

The dessert you see in the pictures above, “Eton Mess By Way Of Italy”  and “Homemade Croutons” recipes can be found by clicking on the links below.

*E.V.O.O. is an acronym for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

 

Eton Mess By Way Of Italy

 

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

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French Vanilla Cake With Raspberry Cream Filling And Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting

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Making great looking cakes takes a lot of practice. I don’t have any artistic abilities at all but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it my best shot. You see, when it comes to making someone feel special, I try my best to pull out all the stops. My  French Vanilla Cake With Raspberry Cream Filling And Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting might just surprise everybody

So as not get overwhelmed with the whole baking and decorating process, it’s done in 4 stages over 3 days. Working full time, this was the only way I could pull off this surprise. When the birthday cake’s finally finished, there’s nothing better than seeing the surprise on their face.

Offset Spatula

This is an offset spatula. It’s a great tool for frosting and available in different sizes.

Note: Make sure all the ingredients used for batter and frosting are at room temperature. Examples: eggs, ricotta, mascarpone cheese, butter.

Equipment:  parchment paper, electric mixer, 3 graduating cake pans, 4″, 6″, and 8″, 3 round cardboard cake dividers matching the size of the cakes, ( these will be placed between each cake for support).A cake slicer, or a long serrated knife, offset spatula, a cake stand or a cardboard cake base, 2 bowls, 1 medium-size, and 1 large, cooling racks.
Cooking Temperature: 350-degrees F. (when using metal pans)

Ingredients For The Cake Batter:
3 boxes of Duncan Hines French vanilla box mix and ingredients needed to complete the mix ( eggs, water, and vegetable oil)
3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
1 seeded vanilla bean (1/3 of the pod to each of the three prepared batters)

Ingredients For Raspberry Cream Filling:
1 pint of fresh raspberries
1/4 cup of raspberry jam with seeds
2 tablespoons of Chambord (raspberry liqueur )
1 tablespoon of water
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of water

Ingredients For Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting With White Chocolate:
4 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
3 8-ounce container of room temperature butter
1 2-pound bag of powdered sugar minus the half of cup used in the filling
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of cream cheese emulsion
12 ounces of good white chocolate (8 ounces melted for curls and shavings, 4 ounces grated).
1 large gum paste red rose
12 small sugar red roses
red candy covered chocolate pieces
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries ( choose the prettiest ones to place on the cake)

Directions:
Stage 1).  Day 1. The Cakes:
Prepare the pans with parchment paper, butter and flour. Using a semi-soft stick of unsalted butter, completely grease all the pans on the bottom and along the sides. Next, place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan. Rub butter on top of the parchment paper as well. Then dust those same three pans with all-purpose flour. shake off any of the excess Set the pans aside and start making the batter.

Start one at a time of the three boxes of French vanilla cake mix. Note: Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. In a large bowl mix together the wet ingredients listed on the back of the box. The eggs, vegetable oil, and water. To that, add a 1/3 of the caviar from a vanilla bean pod, and 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese. Whisk these ingredients together with an electric mixer, on low speed, until well combined and smooth.

Next, still using the electric mixer on low speed, add the dry mix from the box slowly to the wet ingredients. Once the dry and wet come together, immediately remove the mixer and transfer the cake batter to the large bowl, small lumps are fine. Make sure to use a spatula to get all the batter out of the bowl.  Repeat this process, two more times, using the same bowl. Each time transferring the batter to the large bowl.

At this point, all the batter has been mixed and is together in the large bowl. Using the spatula, give the batter a big stir one final time.  Fill each of the cake pans 2″ from the top. Gently, tap each of the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles that may be trapped.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

Follow the temperature instructions on the back of the cake box. Because there are three different size pans, baking times will vary. The small cake should take about 45 minutes. the medium pan 55 minutes, and the large pan about 60 to 65 minutes.

Use a cake tester or a wooden skewer to check on them at these particular times to make sure each cake is fully baked. You know if it’s done when the skewer comes out clean. Each oven may vary so keep a close eye on the time once the cakes are placed in the oven. As each cake finishes baking,  remove that one from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Once all the cakes have come out of the oven.

Transfer the three cakes to cooling racks and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Then use a knife to loosen the cake around the edges of the pan. Place the cooling rack on top of the pan then invert the whole pan rack included upside down. Lift the cake pan slowly to allow the cake to fall free from the pan. Repeat this process for each cake. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Stage 2). Day 2. The Raspberry Cream Filling:
In a sauce pot, place 1 pint ( or 2 half pints) of fresh raspberries, granulated sugar, Chambord, (raspberry liqueur), raspberry jam ( with seeds) and water. Turn on medium heat. Bring the raspberries up to a soft boil, reduce the heat, turn down to a simmer.

Using a fork, mash the raspberries to break them up completely. In a small bowl, mix 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce and bring the mixture back up to a boil, (adjusting the heat) stirring continuously.  Once the sauce has thickened, about 7-10 minutes, remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

To the cooled raspberry sauce, add 1-8 ounce container of room temperature mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract.  Mix all this together, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Stage 2). Day 3. Filling The Cake With A Raspberry Filling:
Remove each cake from their pan and the parchment paper from the underside of each cake.

Once at a time, slice through the center, lengthwise, of each of the cakes. Take the filling and spread the raspberry cream on the bottom half of each cake. Make sure not to spread it all the way to the edges. Leave about 2 inches around the outside of the cake. Place the top back on each cake.

First, start by setting parchment paper on the main base to prevent frosting from getting all over. You want to set the parchment so you can easily pull the piece out once the cake has been frosted. Set the larger cake, carefully centered on top of the parchment paper that’s resting on the cardboard cake base. Next, place the cardboard rounds in between each of the filled cakes, stacking the cakes carefully, and centered, on top of each other.

Stage 3). Day 3. Make The Frosting:
In a large bowl add 4 sticks of room temperature unsalted, 3 8-ounce room temperature containers of Mascarpone cheese, the zest of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of cream cheese emulsion.

Using an electric mixer or stand, with the paddle attachment, on low speed, mix these ingredients together. Slowly, add the remainder of the 2-pound bag of powder sugar. Mix all this together until completely combined and smooth.

Stage 3). Day 3. Frosting The Cake:
This cake, I used decorative pieces fresh raspberries, and white chocolate to decorate this cake. In an earlier post, under I talk about a bakery supply company called D & G Occasions. This is where I purchased all the decorations for this cake. You can visit D & G Occasions by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

Using an offset spatula, starting with the top and working downwards and around the outside of each particular cake. Once the cake is totally frosted, fill a large pitcher with super hot water. Dip the offset spatula in the water, shake off the excess water. Run the spatula around the top and rim of the bottom two cakes as well as the outside of each cake. This will smooth out any imperfections on the frosting. If needed, add more frosting to areas that made need it. Again, smoothing it out by using the offset spatula that’s been dipped into the hot water.

Stage 4). Day 3. Decorate The Cake:
Whatever decorations you may choose to use, let your imagination run wild. I used a large gum paste red rose for the top and small red sugar roses as a border around the base. Red covered chocolate candies as accents, and a border of fresh raspberries around the middle layer of the cake.

Melt 8 ounces of white chocolate, in the microwave-safe bowl. In 30-second intervals, remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until the chocolate is just melted. Pour the chocolate onto the bottom of a baking sheet, and place that into the frig to set. Take a small metal cookie spatula and run that along the cooled chocolate making chocolate curls and shavings.

Using a grater, grate another piece of white chocolate over the top of each layer, so it falls like snow all over the cake. There you have it, French Vanilla Cake With A Raspberry Cream Filling And Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting.

 

D & G Occasions

 

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