Remember when I was all ready to sing the praises of Lorraine Pascale and Rachel Khoo, my two favorite food presenters? I had done so thinking that I’d be watching their exploits on the Cooking Channel for at least months to come (you know, until they found others to fill their slots), but then we found out a few weeks ago that cable won’t be an option at our new place. So while Michael is rejoicing at the thought of no more weekend mornings dominated by the Food Network, I’m bummed that I can’t fangirl over my two new favorites each week.
Oh well—at least I have cookbooks and online recipes to get me through this transition. It also helps that both shows have had their episodes in reruns, so at the very least I’ve been able to see them many times already and written down notes to any recipe that has caught my fancy well before we have to disconnect and mail back the cable box.
Rachel was the first of the two hosts to cross my radar as I first caught an episode from her first series set in Paris and then proceeded to record every episode of Kitchen Notebook: London. At first glance it’s tempting to write her off as a sort of twee hipster cycling around London in pretty dresses, but because this isn’t a Food Network show, it becomes overwhelmingly clear while watching any one episode for the first time that her style, personality, or anything else is treated as a gimmick. It’s the same with Lorraine—I feel like we’d be endlessly reminded that she was a former model at every turn even though it has absolutely nothing to do with her show. Thankfully, the BBC is smart to focus on each woman’s approach to food, and both shows are much better for it. Any mentions of family or background come up pretty naturally in a monologue and aren’t milked for maximum emotional effect.
It also helps that her premise is one that’s really loose and flexible and handily ties in the “man on the street” segments to her kitchen cookery moments. Since she’s talking to all kinds of people—fellow home cooks, street food vendors, as well as restaurant people—all of the interactions feel far more natural and less like non-cooking filler. You’d be amazed how hard it is to find a show that is able to strike that balance.
Of course, the main reason this show works is because it features so many tasty-looking dishes. In fact, one of the few issues I have with the show is that only one recipe per episode is available online for now and her cookbook for the show has yet to have a US publication date. Boo. In the meantime though I can make do with my questionable transcriptions of what she demonstrates on air as well as her cookbook The Little Paris Kitchen. While the latter has a French bent, it’s clearly meant to be an accessible and therefore modern take on French food, and so far every recipe I’ve tried from has turned out quite delicious.
One of the most notable has been this chicken liver and fig salad recipe seen above…only admittedly I used Italian plums because figs were not available when I wanted to make it, but in the end it worked out nicely. Chicken liver is hard to cook properly, but thankfully it’s cheap enough to practice on that it makes it worthwhile to give it a few tries to get it right. Rachel advises only searing it and she’s right to do so as liver benefits from fast cooking and a bit of pink in the middle. The richness of the liver balances well with the crispness of the lettuce and the sweet tartness of the plums and it all works well as a starter or as a light lunch. It’s one I’m looking forward to tweaking for lunches in the future, especially figuring out which seasonal fruits work best in this recipe.
There are so many recipes like this in The Little Paris Kitchen: dishes that would work well as starters or as light lunches, and I’ve flagged a bunch to make for myself a little more often now that we’ve moved. But for now: chicken liver and plum salad.
Salad of Chicken Livers and Italian Plums
Adapted from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
Makes two solid salads
- 1 TB butter
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 7 oz of chicken livers, cleaned (take out any gristly bits and cut huge ones down so that they are all close to the same size)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TB red wine vinegar
- 4 handfuls of mixed salad greens, washed, drained, and divided
- 6 Italian plums quartered and pitted
- Extra virgin olive oil
Cook the onion: melt the butter in a large nonstick pan and add the onion and thyme. Fry on medium heat for 6-8 minutes until the onion is wilted and just barely taking on some signs of being caramelized.
While the onion is cooking, arrange the salad leaves and plum quarters on plates.
Season the livers with salt and pepper, and then turn the heat up to high in your pan before adding them; fry for 1-2 minutes per side to get a light browning on the outside but they will still be pink on the inside. Then add the wine vinegar and let it evaporate for 30 seconds.
Top each plate with the liver and onion mixture, and finish with good olive oil and a pinch of salt.