I ponder my choices. I like the sound of Intesivbacken, which, like so many German words, seems to have a built-in exclamation point. But something called Intesivbacken is probably too strong for the minor task at hand, which is reheating a chicken. The chicken is a little one, bought from a truck at the farmer’s market that sold three things: little rotisserie chickens, big rotisserie chickens, and sliced roast potatoes. I choose Grill, for what I know even as I’m setting the dial is an idiotic reason: it’s the most familiar of the words. I am actually thinking to myself, while turning the knob: you are being an idiot.
All the appliances in this slender, hypermodern kitchen are made by Miele, as are the cabinets, which include those humongous pot-and-pan-sized drawers I’ve always lusted after, and a shallow spice rack behind a door above the cooktop. Every square inch—make that centimeter—is utilized. I slouch against the counter, admiring the kitchen and the view out its window (picture above). Then I catch a whiff of something. I glance at the oven, from which smoke has begun to slink. I open the door, and the liberated smoke billows out. My head darts around in a panic, looking for the smoke detector, because what I don’t want is to infuriate the neighbors, who we haven’t met yet. There's no smoke detector in here. And if there's none in the kitchen, I’m guessing there is none anywhere. Whew.
The chicken is now extra crispy, but salvageable. I tentatively lean my head into the oven, and see that the coils on top are glowing bright red. Grill, I have now discovered, is broiler. I will learn, one mistake at a time.
a recipe: haricots verts with caramelized onions
On our first morning in the apartment on rue de l’Eau, all five of us—the boys, Madeline and her mother, myself—walked a couple of minutes through the misty drizzle to the Place Guillame II. The boys played semi-supervised in a small playground while the grown-ups wandered around, seeing what was what. There were a half-dozen green grocers of varying size and popularity. An unvisited fishmonger, a wildly popular butcher, two stands each for cheeses and olives.
When I wasn’t paying attention, Madeline and Suzy bought a jar of jelly. And apparently the guy at the jelly stand—or near the jelly stand, the precise proximity is not clear—was also selling onions, which is not your typical one-two farm-stand punch. Not regular round Spanish onions, nor red ones, but rather long ovoids. Big, dense ovoids, with thick yellow skin. If I understand their story correctly, the guy seems to have lured them with slivers of raw onion with a taste of jelly, maybe on bread, maybe not; again, I wasn’t there. But the upshot is they bought what I think is a kilo of these onions, and a jar of jelly. I now feel obliged to do something--something simple, because I don't have much in the way staples--with at least a token portion of the 2.2 pounds of odd-looking onions.
Yellow onion, sliced thin
Haricots verts, washed and trimmed
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes, but more if there’s time, until the onions are deeply golden and very sweet. When the pan dries out, which it will do every 10 minutes or so, sprinkle it with water and stir.
Meanwhile, blanch the haricots verts until easily pierced with a fork but not soggy. Drain, run under cold water to halt the cooking, and drain again. Set aside. When it’s time to eat, raise the heat on the onions to medium-high. Add the green beans to the skillet, toss with the onions until reheated, and season salt and pepper.