Monday, February 11, 2008

In the search for cured pork with green lentils recipe

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

A wedding list is never really complete until it gets some cast iron cookware, at least over here in France. Since we received one of these fine Le Creuset cast iron oval pot on our list , we had to figure out a way to break it in in style with something worthy.

My taste buds guided me toward the lentil-bedded cured pork, a dish that brings me back to my childhood with the fondest of memories. You know in the movie Ratatouille when the critique eats the ratatouille and has a flashback to his youth? That's what petit salé does to me, it's my madeleine de Proust. My Grandmother used to cook it when we visited them on vacations out in their countryside home in Limousin and even me, the difficult little girl loved it. The sweet, still-a-little-pink meat and the subtle taste of salt was just divine.

Problem is, kids weren't tolerated for long in the kitchen as we were more of an impediment than help so I'm not certain how she prepared this dish. Grandma, however, did take us along for errands, me and my little red purse with a bunch of cents in it - oh so many responsibilities, I was so proud to be entrusted with such a fortune. The village is pretty quiet now but at the time it had 2 butchers, a post office, many bakeries and even a patisserie. My grandparents usually went to the butcher down the street but for petit salé, Grandma went out of her way to go the the other butcher. It was that important.

So here I am 20 years later in my kitchen, surrounded by cooking books and the mighty power of the internet at my fingertip to uncover this culinary secret of yore. I found many references but remained doubtful. Yet I went along and special-ordered the jarret from my favorite butcher (Chez Philippe, cours Massena Antibes). The result was delicious but definitely not what I was looking for. I'll have to ask around and dig into dusty recipe books at my Grandfather's house. The search is on.

- salted-cured shank half pork (tell your butcher the number of people you plan to feed)
- French green lentils (check on the box proportions), rinsed in cold fresh water
- 2 big carrots
- 1 plump onion
- 4 bay leaves
- cloves
- peppercorns
- thyme
- extra virgin olive oil

1- First let do some maths: check what your lentils box says about cooking time. It's T_cooking_lentils. Now you will have the time: when to add lentils by substracting it to 1h30:
T_when_add_lentils = 1h30 -
T_cooking_lentils. Yep, I'm still a geek, a geek-cook :-)

2- Soak the meat in fresh cold water for 2 hours. Change the water after 1 hour. Drain, pat dry and set aside.

3- Peel the onion and pin into it the cloves ( I used about 8). Peel and cut the carrots.

4- Heat some extra virgin olive oil in your cast-iron pot, at medium heat. When the olive oil is singing crush 3 or 4 peppercorns in the pot. Add the carrots, 3 bay leaves and onion. Sprinkle some thyme. Stir well till they are fully coated with oil. let them cook for few minutes. It will smell good!

5- Add the pork meat, pour fresh water to cover completely the mix. Cover and simmer. Once in a while open your pot and scum it (i.e remove the foam).

6- When it's T_when_add_lentils time add the green lentils and 1 bay leave.

Other pork recipes:
- Garlic pork roast with its crispy potatoes
- Carrot and turnip pork roast


White On Rice Couple said...

My mom loves cured pork, but she's never had lentils before. I want to try this recipe using her favorite bean, mung beans. I wonder how your recipe will do with these mung beans?

Nicolette (Nikki) Miller-Ka said...

Are the Le Creuset pots expensive in France too? The French oven here sells for upwards of $100 USD or more. I don't know the equivilent in francs.

Babeth said...

White on rice couple: I'm not sure this recipe would go well with beans. I would rather do sausages and lards with beans.

Nikki: yes Le Creuset pots are a bit expensive, but it's a life time investment! My Mom still use the one she got 30 years ago.
Mine was about 90euros, about $100 (we don't have francs anymore, we use euros :-))

Nicolette (Nikki) Miller-Ka said...

Oh euros. I knew that. I did. My husband is from Senegal, and they use CFA there which are called a francs and I was thinking about that.

Babeth said...

Never mind Nikki :-) I have no idea in CFA how much a Le Creuset pot will be.

Cast iron cooking utensils said...

Cast iron pots is also available in bare iron with enamel coating. Now you have knowledge of all kinds of kitchen utensils so it is time to go shopping.

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