The kitchen in this furnished apartment is by some measures well-equipped. There is an actual oven (convection, even!), as opposed to the strange microwave combos that seem to be widespread here in Paris. There are four burners at my disposal, on one of those electric, ceramic topped stoves. There is, glory of glories, a dishwasher.
But I had to buy some knives. Not butter knives, there are 16 of those. There are 20 dinner plates and soup bowls, too. But no actual kitchen knives. I bought some inexpensive paring knives and one chef’s knife, but I am without a bread knife. There is a decent pot with a lid for boiling water, but the rest is non-stick, which I sort of detest. Non-stick pans plus a difficult-to-regulate cooking surface makes for some tricky moments. The oven has 6 different heat settings: Top, bottom, or both, with or without the fan. The temperature is in given in degrees Celsius, of course, an issue that would be easy to deal with if I felt that the oven was well calibrated. Which I don’t.
I am not complaining. Almost every kitchen has its quirks, its shortcomings. It just requires a little time and practice to get comfortable with those quirks, to learn to work with them, to understand the restrictions they pose.
But you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Or, in my case, drastically overcook some chicken to realize that the oven runs hot.
There was nothing left on those chicken quarters when I finally had the good sense to take them out. What was left was dry, dry, dry, with skin that was beyond crispy. I should know better, having been a baker, that you can’t just turn up the oven when something doesn’t seem to be cooking in there. Patience!
What I did discover, in this what-happened-to-the-chicken dinner, is a delicious way to prepare leeks. Keeping the stem ends intact, I vertically halved and washed several leeks and placed them in the bottom of a shallow baking dish big enough to hold the chicken parts in a single layer. I wanted to give the leeks a little head start so I put them in the oven with some olive oil, salt, and a bit of water to get them steaming. When they were beginning to soften, I took them out of the heat, placed the well-seasoned chicken parts on top with a few wedges of lemon here and there, and returned it all to the oven where it would stay too long.
But the leeks were delicious! Everything good about the chicken had dripped down and transferred to the leeks! Meltingly tender, sitting in their slightly lemony, chicken fat-enriched sauce, this humble allium became the highlight of the meal.
I served the chicken and leeks on a bed of cous cous alongside a pile of asparagus spears. A very basic salsa verde topped things off. It was a good menu, I think, and one I’ll try again when I’ve regained confidence in my chicken-roasting abilities.
At least I had the dishwasher to help me clean up.