Showing posts with label Gordon Ramsay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gordon Ramsay. Show all posts

Friday, May 15, 2015

Scallops with Ginger-Soy Aioli

by Sheila Connolly

You know you’re a foodie when the first thing you do when visiting the country’s great cities is find a market.

I just came back from a conference/research trip (the MWA Edgar Awards, Malice Domestic, and an upper-crust party in Philadelphia) that took twelve days and covered multiple states. I’m not complaining (except for the humongous suitcase that I came to hate and would gladly have tossed under a train), although I think I left my brain somewhere along the way. But worth it!

Grand Central Market

The first stop was New York, where the conference hotel sat literally atop Grand Central Station. While I had taken trains in and out of there in the past, I never realized there were other parts of the station I knew nothing about. Thanks to a friend who dragged me off to lunch, I discovered the Market and the Food Court. Oh joy.

I ended in Philadelphia, where I used to work. The first thing I did (after checking into my hotel and getting rid of that suitcase) was to head straight to the Reading Terminal Market and eat a cheese steak at the Down Home Diner. The market has been around for well over a century and has an amazing array of foods. I try to stop in every time I’m in town to buy mushrooms (did I mention that Pennsylvania is the mushroom capital of the world?) that I can’t get anywhere else. Chanterelles (you don’t want to know how much they cost), hen of the woods, beech mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, trumpet mushrooms—I snagged them all, and this week my husband and I are eating a lot of mushroom recipes (starting with a lovely risotto…).

Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market
Mushrooms--yes, I bought them all

But the recipe I wanted to share came from my hotel in Philadelphia, Morris House. A colleague alerted me to its existence a few years ago. It’s a tiny place (15 rooms) in an 18th century house in center city, close to all the historic monuments I want to visit. It has been lovingly restored, and each room is different. Where else can you find a real fire burning in the fireplace in the breakfast room?

It also has a restaurant called M. In last year’s book in the Museum Mysteries series, Razing the Dead, I set a romantic scene there, between my protagonist Nell Pratt and her FBI whatever-he-is James Morrison. Nell is sure he’s trying to break off their relationship (she was wrong). For details you’ll have to read Razing the Dead and the forthcoming Privy to the Dead.

I ate at the restaurant in honor of Nell and James. In the kitchen the woman chef called out orders to the kitchen staff, and I was reminded of Gordon Ramsay. I like to know how things work, including kitchens. Gordon came to mind again when I ordered the scallops (if the show Hell’s Kitchen is any indication, Gordon doesn’t think anyone in the world can cook scallops right).

I’m getting to the food, really. After all this, I’m giving you a quick and simple recipe.

Scallops with Ginger-Soy Aioli

I wish I could tell you that I went to the kitchen and demanded this recipe after the first bite, but I managed to restrain myself.

1/2 cup mayonnaise (if you’re a purist you can make your own—I used Hellman’s)
3 Tblsp soy sauce
1 Tblsp coarsely grated fresh ginger
1 Tblsp fresh chives, diced finely
Juice of half a small lemon

Simple, isn’t it? Just mix them together and you’re good to go. One piece of advice: taste as you add the ingredients. The amounts are suggestions, and you can tweak them as you like. You could also add garlic (with restraint!), or cayenne (just a dash) or horseradish (a pinch).

The aioli--looks so innocent, doesn't it?

Sauté your scallops briefly in butter, with the aioli on the side for dunking. Serve immediately with salad greens lightly tossed with vinaigrette. I found that the scallops are the perfect complement to the aioli, because their sweetness cuts the tartness just a bit. But you can use any white fish. Heck, use the stuff as a marinade for chicken—it’s that good.

Look, Gordon--I can cook scallops!

BTW, for a cheese course I ordered unpasteurized sheep cheese (which the menu described as “musty”), which came paired with a dollop of butterscotch sauce. I know, it sounds crazy—but the combination worked. That invisible chef has a wonderful sense for flavors.

Privy to the Dead (Museum Mystery #6), coming June 2nd!

Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, has something to smile about thanks to a generous donation from a major Philadelphia developer who’s willing to help update their museum. But renovations have barely begun when a man is struck by a car in front of the building and killed.

The victim is a construction worker who found a curious metal object while excavating an old privy in the museum’s basement. Nell thinks the death is somehow connected to the Society, and her suspicions are confirmed when an antiques expert reveals a link between the objects from the cellar and a fellow staff member’s family.

Now Nell must unearth a mystery with ties to the past and the present. Because when someone is willing to kill over scrap metal, there’s no telling what they’ll do next…

Available now for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lemon Treacle Slice

by Sheila Connolly

There are times when I think Gordon Ramsay has taken over television, maybe with a little help from Anthony Bourdain (who now appears to be CNN's new international political commentator). Gordon (may I call you Gordon? I feel that I know you well enough) currently appears in, at last count, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, The F Word, Hotel Hell, and a few others, and, yes, I watch all of them.  It's not just to listen to the bleeps (if you don't know it, he swears a lot). I admire the way Gordon cooks:  good fresh food prepared simply and presently attractively. I also keep watching because I'm still waiting for him to run out of energy, but he hasn't yet.

One show of his that I didn't know about until one dire evening when there was no network show I wanted to watch, and I didn't feel like committing to an entire movie—i.e., staying awake that long—is Gordon Behind Bars, a short series of four episodes made last year in Brixton Prison in London, and available on BBC America.  Gordon goes into the Victorian prison to try to teach a small group of inmates not only to cook but to make something marketable on the outside (and, since he's Gordon Ramsay, he succeeds).  Together they created Bad Boys' Bakery, and their signature product is the Lemon Treacle Slice, available commercially through at least one café chain.

British (and Irish) cooking is always challenging because many of the ingredients are unfamiliar and/or unavailable in the US, and units are given in grams or milliliters.  I solved Problem #1 by locating online suppliers for such things as golden syrup and treacle (yes, there is a difference), and Problem #2 by buying an adorable kitchen scale with any number of units of measurement.  I am ready! (Except I'm definitely going to buy European measuring cups when I'm in Dublin in June!)

So I was curious to see what this treacle slice was all about and what it tastes like. [Note:  this recipe is widely available on different Internet sites.] Warning:  whatever you call it, treacle is sticky! It's far thicker than our molasses or honey, but it has its own flavor.

US measurements in red

300g digestive biscuits  an 8-oz package is about right
150g butter 1 1/2 sticks
Okay, right up front we've got an issue:  what the heck is a digestive biscuit?  No, it's not a graham cracker, but close:  a whole-grain cracker, but with no sugar.  McVitie's seems to be the major producer, not available in my market but I found a decent substitute.

Place the biscuits in a food processor and blend until they are reduced to fine crumbs.

Melt the butter, then stir into the biscuits. Press the biscuit mixture firmly into the base of a 20cm 9-inch square tin which has been lined with baking parchment.

Chill for at least a half an hour (you'll see why below).

1 Tblsp lemon curd (you may have to hunt for this at the store)
675g golden syrup 
2 tins
90g butter 3 ounces
100ml double cream  
1/2 cup heavy cream
225g white breadcrumbs 
this came out to 4 cups loosely packed when I weighed it, but they could have been squished down to less
5 egg yolks
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Pre heat the oven to 160c.  This came out to about 325 degrees F, but not much cooking was going on at that temperature, so I bumped it up to 350

Place the golden syrup into a saucepan along with the butter and allow to melt GENTLY. You do not want this to boil.

Once the butter has melted take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream, breadcrumbs, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice. Stir well.
Once the base has chilled, spread the lemon curd onto the base (with a spatula or a brush—this is why you've chilled the base). Pour the breadcrumb filling over the biscuit base and then place into the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes or until firm to the touch (not browned). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.


A little icing sugar  confectioner's/powdered sugar
A little lemon juice

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice until you have a thick paste. Place it into a piping bag and pipe over the top of your slices. Or just drizzle the stuff with a spoon.

Gordon, if you'd like a guest slot on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, we'd love to have you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pickled Vegetables

by Sheila Connolly

This post is sort of a continuation of my last one, which should probably be called "Too Hot to Cook!"

I watch too many cooking shows.  Iron Chef, Top Chef, America's next whatever (I'm convinced there are at least three Gordon Ramsay clones because no one person could possibly do as much as he does), Chopped—I'm there, collecting ideas. 

Recently I've noticed that when the eager chef-testants describe the dishes they are presenting, they often say, "then I made a quick pickle for some brightness" or something like that. 

Quick pickle?  For some reason I had it in my head that pickling was a long and tedious process that involved boiling a lot of stuff and putting it in jars that had to be sterile (more boiling). Not for me! Certainly not in the middle of a hot summer, which unfortunately is when all the good stuff is ripe for pickling. 

But I have now proven myself wrong.  There are plenty of quick-pickle recipes.  The beauty of them is, you can use more or less whatever vegetables you have on hand, as long as you cut them into fairly small pieces so the dressing can penetrate and work its magic. 

½ cup rice vinegar (you can substitute white vinegar)
2 Tblsp. sesame oil
2 Tblsp. soy sauce
1 Tblsp. light brown sugar
1 Tblsp. minced fresh ginger
1 Tblsp. Thai fish sauce 

Whisk the ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, then add your vegetables and toss.  Let cool, then cover and let stand at room temperature.  Taste before serving and add salt if you think the dish needs it. 

I had a lovely batch of organic radishes from our local farmers market, and I liked the contrast of the red skin and white interior, so I made matchsticks of those.  Then I also made matchsticks of some pretty yellow carrots (note that the pieces were all roughly the same size).  I had some sugar snap peas as well and thought the green might be a nice contrast, so I sliced them into narrow strips and added them. 

You can use almost any vegetable you like.  Thin slices of bell pepper (all and any colors) would work well.  Cucumbers. Zucchini. (Not mushrooms, though—they'd go slimy fast.)  And of course, you can add thinly sliced cabbage (add that last), to make it a more traditional slaw. 

And all those chef-testants are right:  a side dish like this adds sharpness and crunch to your meal. It's a nice change from traditional cole slaw for an outdoor picnic.

Friday, July 1, 2011


by Sheila Connolly

This is your chicken.

This is your chicken on drugs.

Oops, wrong script.  The latter picture is actually a spatchcocked chicken.  Don't you love that word?  Actually it was hyperactive Gordon Ramsay who introduced me to the term, on his entertaining cable television show The F Word.  All it means is that you remove the backbone and the breastbone from your chicken (or any other bird) so you can flatten it and cook it on the grill or broil it.

How do you remove the backbone (with a minimum of wrestling and cursing)?  Poultry shears.  I inherited these from my mother (who never in her life spatchcocked a chicken, as far as I can recall).  Snip along both sides of the spine and remove it, nick the sternum so it splits easily and then wrench out the cartilage and bone (did I say this was for the faint of heart?), and then lean on the bird to make it lay flat. 

It's summer (someone should tell the New England weather that), and it's grilling season.  I will confess I am a grilling dinosaur:  I've been using the same Weber grill for decades.  No propane, no fancy dials--just fire and a cover, and a couple of vents to control the temperature.  I'll admit that I know that charcoal briquets are evil, and the fire-starter stuff you squirt all over them makes things worse, but I tell myself I don't use them that much.  Really.  And if it's 100 degrees in my non-air-conditioned kitchen, no way am I heating up the broiler.

Now it's time to marinate your flat chicken.  I have a go-to marinade that I cribbed from Julia Child's From Julia Child's Kitchen, but of course I've modified it.  It's simple:  lemon peel, fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, a dash of sesame oil, thyme, salt and pepper.  Oh, you want measurements?

The thinly-peeled rind of 2 lemons

2-3 thin slices fresh ginger

2 Tblsp soy sauce

4 Tblsp olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2-4 cloves garlic (I use a garlic press, which St. Julia frowns upon, or you can mince it finely)

Thyme (fresh if possible)

Freshly-ground pepper

If you love to julienne, have at it with the lemon peel and the ginger.  If you're in a hurry, grate the ginger and even the lemon rind.  I promise I won't tell anyone.  Use fresh thyme if you have it, but dried is fine too.

I had to add this picture of the liquid ingredients just because they looked so cool when I combined them.

Mix everything together and massage your bird with it.  If you don't want your hands to smell like garlic and sesame oil for the rest of the day, wear gloves or paint the marinade on with a brush.

Now cook your bird.  You're going to have to use your judgment here, but this is what I do.

--make a nice fire in your grill, Wait until the coals are covered with grey ash, and spread out the coals evenly. 

--put your grate over the coals and lay your flat chicken on it, skin side down.

--Cover the grill and cook for ten minutes.

--Turn over your chicken, cover the grill again, and cook for another ten minutes.

As you can guess, the timing depends on how big and how hot your fire is, not to mention how big your chicken is.  You can poke the chicken with your finger to test it, and if it's too squishy, it's probably not cooked through.  If the legs fall off, it's definitely done.

And there you go!  It smells delicious, it's low calorie, and it's easy.  Happy summer grilling!  And have a wonderful (and safe) holiday weekend.


Almost forgot to mention:  Let's Play Dead comes out next Tuesday!  Shocking things happen at the Philadelphia children's museum, Let's Play, and Nell Pratt is on the scene. Click here or on the book cover to learn more.

But wait!  There's more!  My first e-book, Called Home, debuted on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a lot of other places.  It's a prequel to the Orchard Mystery series, and there's a ghost--maybe.  And it includes a peek at the next book in the series, Bitter Harvest, coming in August. Click here or on the book cover to jump to the Amazon product page.