Ten months ago, in a burst of enthusiasm, I offered to foster an abandoned dog for a rescue, sight unseen. He would be flown up from Texas, but he would not be with me long – while purebred dogs are a dime for several dozen in Texas shelters, they’re a high-demand item in the Northwest, and the dog rescue had a waiting list of people wanting a young, healthy, happy boy.
Unfortunately, the dog that arrived, although young and healthy, was fearful, and when in a new situation – which, of course, every situation was – expressed his feelings by snapping and baring his teeth. This did not deter a family from adopting him three weeks after his arrival, but it did deter them from keeping him, and so three weeks after that, he came back.
In the months that followed, he became part of our household routine, when we had one, and we learned to work around him, putting baby gates in all the doorways to keep the cats safe from his chases, crating him to keep him out of trouble when we left the house, and leaving the house less often, since we didn’t want him to spend too much time in the crate. When The Child was in the hospital, he ended up spending too much of his time in his crate anyway, but he never complained, just wiggled happily when I returned to liberate him.
When The Child returned home, he slept on her bed at night, snuggled next to her, or else sat near the window, breathing the outside air and keeping an eye on the street below.
We waited for him to settle down enough that he could be placed in a permanent home, and eventually, a home came along that was so perfect that even I could not find a reason to refuse them, and he was adopted.
We cried when he left, and the next day, and the day after that, and slowly our routine adjusted back to what it had been before his stay. I did not have to let him out of The Child’s bedroom each morning, or fill a second food dish, although I left his food dish in its place on the kitchen floor, just as I left his crate in my bedroom, empty.
His adopter lifted our spirits by sending daily updates about his adventures, playing with her dog in the rain, chasing tennis balls, sleeping under her bed; at our house, our spirits were gradually lifted by the sight of our cats, no longer afraid to roam, playful again, taking up their spots at the window to watch the birds outside.
It didn’t feel like he really took that much time when he was here, but after he left, I had the unfamiliar sensation of having free time. My To Do list wasn’t actually shorter, but it seemed that way, and gradually, I began to do the things I used to do. I made dinner that didn’t come out of a box from the freezer; I cooked it in something that wasn’t a microwave.
As it happens, I made pork, for no particular reason other than that I like pork chops and hadn’t had any for an absurdly long time; I chose this particular recipe because, as seems to happen so often in my kitchen, I had an absurd amount of apples for reasons that remain mysterious. It required no special trip to the store for the other ingredients – a bit of wine, some cream, some mustard.
It was simple to prepare and I loved the mild, mustardy sauce with the apples and the pork – there are quite a lot of apples involved, especially since The Child didn’t want to eat fruit with meat, so each mouthful had a bit of meat and a lot of apple.
It was heaven, and a nice change from the usual pork chops with a side of apple sauce.
The recipe is (very slightly) adapted from the classic cookbook Simple French Food by Richard Olney.
- 2 lbs apples, quartered, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 4 pork loin chops, boneless, thick cut
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup Dijon or country mustard
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Spread the apples in a buttered baking pan large enough to hold the chops without crowding, and bake for 15 minutes.
- While the apples are in the oven, Heat a large, heavy skillet, and brown the chops in some butter over medium-high heat, about 7-8 minutes on each side.
- Arrange the chops on top of the apples, and deglaze the skillet with white wine, reducing it by about half. Pour over the chops in the baking dish.
- With heat on medium low, warm the cream in the skillet and mix in the mustard, using more or less as you prefer. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over the chops and apples, shaking the baking dish to ensure the sauce is distributed among the apples.
- Bake 15 minutes, or until chops are thoroughly cooked, and serve.