Mr. and Mrs. H. came over with their sweet little brood (two babies plus two pooches) for what I hoped would turn out to be some good eats. It's been a while since I've cooked some serious protein in a pan—chalk it up to a (maybe irrational?) fear that I'd lost my touch getting the meat just right since my days as a line cook in New York. But I decided—with Mrs. H's encouragement—to give it a go. The menu for the night: breaded pork medallions and red cabbage with apple, compliments of Everyday Food.
Success! Mr. H., a South African who loves his meat (he can cook a mean lamby on the spit), ate his plate clean and finished a good 15 minutes ahead of us. Mrs. H, who provided a lovely veggy phyllo-dough pie, also tucked it all away. Of course, there was the chance they were just being nice—after all, they're two of my dearest friends. But when I cut into my pork loin, I knew: It was just right. Tender, moist and well-seasoned. Phew. I was so happy and relieved.
Like any home cook would do, I made a few substitutions and switcheroos with the pork and cabbage recipes. Instead of rye bread (crusting the pig), I used a sprouted whole-wheat variation (crammed full of barley malt; millet; sprouted soy beans, corn and lentils), then threw in a bunch of black sesame seeds. Plus, I whacked the crap outta the medallions before breading. And since I couldn't be bothered to buy apple cider vinegar (for just a few tablespoons? I think not) when I had red wine vinegar in the cupboard, I went with that instead for the soury-tart (with some savory bacon high notes) cabbage side dish.
After singing a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday," we enjoyed dessert: sheet cake with blueberries and vanilla ice cream. The recipe I riffed off of called for 2 sticks of butter and cherries. I went with blueberries instead and decided that 1 stick plus 1/2 a cup of apple sauce and a glug of veg oil would do just as well. It did.
And no, it wasn't little V's birthday, but since we were having cake and ice cream, she felt like we should celebrate it again. We were happy to oblige.