Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

Crispy Pork Belly

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Pork Belly seems to be one of the most sought-after cuts of meat. The Iron Chef show is who really brought this cut to the forefront. In restaurants today, it’s become one of the hottest items to order. I mean, once you’ve ordered the Pork Belly, you’ll most likely always order it no matter the style it’s being served. It’s that delicious!  I sometimes think we may be a little slow when it comes to trying new things. Many Asian cuisines, have for many years, implemented Pork Belly into a variety of their dishes.

I have a great and easy way to prepare Crispy Pork Belly at home so it will come out tender, golden, with a crispy top. This recipe doesn’t require scoring the skin in any way. This will allow you to slice it later and it will retain its integrity. I think it’s worth mentioning, that Shaoxing rice wine is available in most Asian markets today. If you adore Asain cuisine and want to make delicious Asian dishes at home, Shaoxing rice wine should be a pantry staple.

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Yields: 10 large pieces
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hours to overnight
Cook Time:  roughly 1 hour 10 minutes
Equipment: Roasting pan with rack

2-pound pork belly
1 cup of Kosher salt

1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup of Shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
1/4 cup of orange juice
2 cloves of minced garlic

Using a paper towel, pat the skin of the Pork Belly completely dry. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and then pour them into a rectangle style baking dish that’s just big enough to hold the pork belly.

Carefully place the Pork Belly into the baking dish making sure only the meat touches the marinate. The skin on the top must remain completely dry. If the marinade level is too high, then discard any extra by pouring some of it off. Place the baking dish with the pork belly and marinade into the frig for at least 4 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.. Completely line a roasting pan with foil. Pour an inch of water into the bottom of the pan. Place a wire rack on top to hold the Pork Belly.

Remove the baking dish with the marinated pork belly from the frig. While the pork belly is still in the baking dish, spread 1 cup of Kosher salt evenly over the fat cap of the pork belly as seen in the pictures above.  Next, transfer the Pork Belly onto the wire rack. The Pork Belly will cook above the water and the drippings will fall into the water.

Note: If one part of the Pork Belly is slightly lower or shorter on one side, use an oven-safe item to prop up that side so the pork will cook evenly. Bake for around 40 minutes.

Remove the pan with the Pork Belly and increase the temperature to 470 degrees F. The salt should have formed a crust which you can easily remove. You’ll be able to see the Pork Belly,  in the side by side pictures, with the removed salted fat cap above.

Once the temperature of the oven has reached 470 degrees F., place the Pork Belly back into the oven and bake for another 30 minutes. The skin should be bubbly and crisp. The internal temperature should be 165-degrees F.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Crispy Pork Belly is a great appetizer and one I know you’ll make over and over.



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Raspberry Panna Cotta

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Whenever I serve this Panna Cotta (Italian translation, cooked cream) my friends tend to loose their minds and go CRAZY!   Serving dessert in a glass seems to add a touch of elegance. I love making this dessert because, you can make it a day in advance and garnish them right before serving.

Yields: 6 servings
Cook Time: bring just to a boil
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hours minimum,  to overnight
1 envelope unflavored gelatin ( about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons cold water
2 cups of heavy cream
1 cup of half and half
1/3 cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean pod

Raspberry Topping
2 pints of fresh raspberries ( reserve 6 raspberries for garnish)
1 cup of granulated sugar divided in half cups
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of Chambord ( raspberry liqueur optional)
1/4 cup of raspberry jam ( jam with seeds optional)
1 heaping tablespoon of corn starch
2 tablespoons of cold water
6  chocolate hazelnut Pirouline rolled wafers for garnish
fresh mint for garnish
white chocolate chips for garnish

Start with the raspberry  topping. In a food processor, add the fresh raspberries, fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, and Chambord. Pulse until the raspberries are completely pureed. In a medium size sauce pan, on medium heat, pour the pureed raspberry mixture. Next, add in the raspberry jam along with the other 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, add the corn starch and water. Whisk the two together until combined and add that to the pan of raspberry mixture.Once the raspberry sauce comes up to a boil, about 5-8 minutes, the sauce will start to thicken. Turn the heat off. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the raspberry sauce to a medium size bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To start the Panna cotta, have a medium size sauce pan,. To the sauce pan, add the heavy cream, half and half, granulated sugar, and the seeded vanilla bean and pod.

In another small sauce pan. Place the 3 tablespoons of water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water, letting stand for about 1 minute to soften. Heat the gelatin over low heat, using a small whisk, stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Then remove the pan from the heat.

Over med-high heat, whisking continuously, bring the cream mixture just up to a boil. Once at the boil, remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pod and whisk in the prepared gelatin mixture.

Carefully, ladle the cream mixture evenly into the 6 glasses, on a baking tray. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

After the 4 hours is up, remove the Panna Cotta from the frig. Remove the plastic wrap, and evenly ladle the raspberry sauce carefully over the top of each one of the glasses. Garnish with white chocolate chips, fresh mint, a fresh raspberry for each one, and finely, a hazelnut Pirouline rolled wafer.

Note: Keep Panna Cotta desserts refrigerated until ready to serve.


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Homemade Cajun Chicken Pasta

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Here in Florida, we have a local restaurant and bar that serves this dish. Every time we go I always order the Cajun Chicken Pasta. I just love it so much I needed to recreate it at home. I will say that there is some butter that goes into the making of this dish, but that’s part of the reason it’s so delicious. I think once and a while it’s alright to indulge in a rich and decadent dish!

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Ready less than 1 hour
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: cast iron skillet and a deep sided saute pan.

4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 boxes of linguine
1 pint of sliced button mushrooms
4 seeded and diced plum tomatoes
1 finely minced shallot
3 finely minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup of dry white wine
3 tablespoons of olive oil
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese ( reserve 1/2 cup for garnishing each serving)
Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

In a cast iron skillet, start by melting butter and olive oil. To the skillet add the finely minced shallot and sliced mushrooms. On medium heat, saute the mushrooms and shallots for about 3-5 minutes. Next, add in the minced garlic, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add in 1/4 cup of white wine and let this all simmer together until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are brown. This process should take another 7-10 minutes. While the mushrooms are simmering and browning, seed and dice 4 plum tomatoes. Transfer the sauteed mushrooms, shallots and garlic with the diced tomatoes to the bowl and mix together.

Place 4 boneless-skinless chicken breast, that have been patted dry, in a large resealable plastic bag. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika to the bag. Let all the air out of the bag and seal it up. Using your hands, massage the chicken so all the seasoning coats the chicken.

Using the same skillet the mushrooms were cooked in, preheated on the stove on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil along with 2 tablespoons of butter. Let the butter melt and move the butter and oil around in the skillet to coat the entire bottom. Next, place the 4 seasoned chicken breast into the skillet. Cook the chicken breasts for 5-7 minutes per side until almost tender. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside for a minute.

In a large pot, start to get the pasta water ready. Turn the pot on med-high heat to bring the water up to a boil. While that’s happening, slice the chicken breast on the bias.

in a deep sided saute pan with a lid, start the sauce for this dish. On medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter ( this may seem like a large amount of butter, but there is a lot of pasta going into this dish. The pasta needs to be well coated) along with 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and 1 tablespoons sweet paprika. Add 1/2 a cup of low sodium chicken broth. Let this come to a bubble. Reduce the heat to med-low and pour in 1/4 cup of  heavy cream. Whisk the sauce together, then add the sliced chicken into the sauce. Let the sauce and chicken simmer for 10-12 minutes ( enough time to cook the pasta), on med-low heat, while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is al dente,  transfer the linguine to the pan with the chicken, along with 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Turn the heat off and toss together until all the pasta is coated and the chicken is mixed through.The pasta will immediately start to absorb the sauce. Serve in a pasta bowl and garnishing with fresh Italian flat leaf parsley and another sprinkling of the Parmesan cheese. If the dish is not being served right away, place the lid.



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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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