year 2

The maître d' from Bacchus is standing in the rue du Marché aux Herbes, a half-block away, smoking a cigarette. "Bonsoir!" he calls, waving. "Bonsoir!" I yell back, and continue walking Charlie Brown around the palace (which the boys and I finally have the chance to tour; the pic here is from the palace's yard). In the Place Guillaume market, the woman who sells the roast chickens asks if I've had a good summer; she says it's been too quiet in the mornings, too busy at noon. At the coffee store, as the machine grinds the beans, the counter-girl hands me some candies. "Pour les enfants," she explains, even though those children are not with me.

Sam and Alex have started a new school: we were not even on European soil for 48 hours when we dropped them off at their first day at the International School of Luxembourg; they are unfazed. There are familiar faces, of both the child and the grown-up variety, including some who defected from St. George's to ISL. There are also familiar faces at the other places I go: at the supermarkets and bakeries and butchers; on the shopping street of the Grand Rue and in the cafés of our own little rue de l'Eau; at the Just Move centre de fitness and at the Kockelscheuer tennis courts, where I shake the hands of not one or two but four different Swedish tennis coaches. I never imagined that one day I'd have such a broad acquaintance among Luxembourg-resident Swedish tennis coaches.

I need a haircut, and I know I must get to Coiffure Fred by mid-morning, before the appointment-only lunchtime hours. For good ricotta, I walk over to Galli y Galli, in the rue Beaumont, where I'm prepared for my interaction to involve pseudo-talking in French, Italian, and English. The boys learned to ride two-wheelers this summer, and the long, safe, flat bike path that we now need is going to be found in Bertrange, in a completely sign-less park that we'll access by walking through the parking lot of a small apartment building. None of these are things that I knew a year ago.

The car has come down with a minor ailment: the directional signals don't work. I'm never going to be someone who's comfortable at garages--I barely know where to put the gas--and the 100 percent absence of English chez le garagiste isn't exactly an enticement. (Plus, the guy who works the customer-service desk might want to pick up the thread of our previous conversation: how everything in Luxembourg is better than everything in the United States.) But I know roughly how to say what I need to say, and I've done this before. I've done most of it before. Because I live here.

a sub-recipe: sauce orange

It was 1983 or 1984 when I went on a dinner-and-a-movie date that involved duck à l'orange. The movie may have been that year's Woody Allen, or something along the lines of Terms of Endearment; I'm pretty sure we went to the Baronet and Coronet, though it could have been another of the big theaters that used to be clustered on Third Avenue, near Bloomingdale's. The French restaurant was on Lexington. When we left, it was snowing.

I remember this a quarter-century later because roast duck with orange sauce is a special-occasion dish, just as special as going on a date to a French restaurant when you're fifteen. Roasting a duck isn't something I want to do on a Wednesday night; actually, I'm fine with roasting the thing, but what I really don't want is any responsibility for the ensuing Superfund-worthy mess. Making orange sauce, however, is. In the past year, I've bought at least three dozen rotisserie chickens from the Wednesday-and-Saturday market in the Place Guillaume; it's a sort-of home-cooked meal that I don't have to actually cook. Though these chickens are delicious--especially the large poulets fermiers--even a great roast chicken can become boring. Enter orange sauce. For chicken. On a Wednesday night. It takes 5 minutes.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider or sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or, in a pinch, triple sec)
1/4 cup orange preserves
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chicken or veal stock, or 1 tablespoon demi-glace dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallot, and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the honey, vinegar, liqueur, preserves, juice, and stock. Raise the heat to high, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced to a thick syrup, which will take a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and stir in the remaining butter. Voilà!

I use the sauce thusly: I buy a rotisserie chicken. I preheat the broiler, cut up the chicken, put it in a roasting pan skin-side up, and brush it with the sauce. I broil it until the skin begins to blister and the sauce to burn just a little bit, then I flip it, slather on more sauce, and broil again until just before it burns. Remove it from the oven, brush on more sauce, and serve.

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