I’ve had many summers that felt like little jewelboxes of time, sweet and slow – the one we spent living in temporary housing while we waited for our daughter to be born comes to mind – but there was one that was wonderful in a completely different way than all the others.
It was the summer after Kendrick and I moved from our tiny Hell’s Kitchen place to our slightly-less-tiny Upper East Side apartment. The summer that I quit my office job, and started writing for a living (well, that was the plan, in any case). The summer that we were working out how to be married and wondering how in the world we were going to pay our rent and trying to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up…but it was so exciting. The sheer possibility of it all. We were children standing on the edge of adulthood, thinking about jumping.
We had a little crew that summer. Stephen and Dave, of course – we had rooftop cocktails with them most nights, Lucy whizzing in circles around us while we watched the setting sun light up all that silver paint. Francesca was living in the city then, just a few blocks away, and a few of Kendrick’s other friends from college lived at various points along the 6 line. We’d all go out to terrible bars and drink terrible drinks and stay up far too late, because we were still so young, and it still felt like bad choices were a life imperative.
I threw a dinner party one night, right after we moved into our new place. The apartment felt practically mansion-sized to me, and had high ceilings, an actual (albeit nonworking) fireplace, and the kind of wide-plank wood floors that were the stuff of New York City real estate dreams. I couldn’t believe our luck in finding it, and found myself wanting to show it off – the new apartment, the new marriage, the new life.
So I invited over Stephen, Dave, Francesca, and Francesca’s friend Bevan, and made a bit of a thing about it. We all dressed up; I set the table with actual placemats (!) and our wedding china; we drank champagne and danced around the living room. Then we sat down to eat and – I swear this is true – somehow it ended up with all of us spontaneously holding hands while we sang Amazing Grace. I don’t even know who started the hand-holding and the singing or if anyone in particular started it at all; it felt inevitable, like the only thing that could be done. It was one of those moments when everything – where we were, who we were, our friendships, our futures – was perfect, virtually alight with promise.
I posted photos of that dinner on my brand-new website – Bevan was a photographer, and took the most gorgeous shots of the evening – but most of those photos belong to the Lost Years; they never made the leap when I moved my site from Tumblr to its current incarnation. I think of that night often, though. How young we were. How happy.
Kendrick comes over for dinner every Wednesday now; it’s our special “family night.” We all eat dinner together, then play a game, or watch a little TV. He helps the kids practice piano, because they’re starting to be too good for me to teach. The feelings all of this raises in me aren’t bad, but they hurt.
The other night, when thinking about what I wanted to make for Wednesday night dinner, I remembered the dish that I’d served at that dinner party so long ago. I thought I’d make it again; you know, so I could get some good shots of one of first meals I ever made, and one that still ranks highly among the best. My daughter helped me flip the pork; my son folded napkins for the table. No placemats this time. Kendrick filled the water glasses while I sliced the pork.
We are not young, not anymore. Our children hold that title now, moving us solidly into the throes of middle age. Our world is different than it was the first time we sat around a table, sharing this dinner, in more ways than I can list. Our friends have moved, married, had babies of their own. Our wedding china is long-gone, the victim of too many moves to too many homes. We’ve broken so many parts of what was, but we’ve also built skyscrapers out of pure love.
We sit at a different table now, in a different state. The champagne has turned into juice, and the songs we sing now are nursery rhymes.
But we are still there, after all this time: Sitting around a table, passing the butter, talking about where we want to go next. And all the possibility still leaves me breathless.
What You Need:
- 2-3 pork medallions per person, depending on thickness and hunger level
- 8-12 shallots
- 3/4 stick butter
- 4-6 large portobello mushroom caps, stemmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced (shittake mushrooms work well too, but they’re a bit more expensive)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Rosemary sprigs
- 1 cup apple cider
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
What you do:
- Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a large bowl and add the pork medallions. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- Remove pork from liquid; strain and reserve marinade.
- Boil a pot of water and cook the unpeeled shallots for about five minutes, then immediately transfer the shallots to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Peel shallots.
- Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced portobello mushrooms and the shallots and cook until shallots are translucent (about five minutes). Remove mushrooms and shallots from pan using a slotted spoon.
- Add your reserved marinade to the pan and bring to a light simmer. Continue cooking until liquid has reduced by a third.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive in another large pan.
- Pat the pork medallions dry with paper towels, put them in the large pan, and cook over medium heat, flipping occasionally, until cooked through.
- When marinade is sauce-like, blend in the remaining butter.
- To serve, put the pork medallions on a large platter and arrange the mushrooms and shallots on top. Spoon a little sauce over each portion, and garnish plates with rosemary.