Friday, December 31, 2010

Lentils for Good Luck & Prosperity

Lentils are believed by some to bring good luck and fortune if you eat them as the first meal of the new year. In the south (US), many people eat black-eyed peas for the same reason. I was raised by a long line of great southern cooks so I'm used to eating black-eyed peas on New Year's but this year I wanted to try something a little different. Pork is another food considered to be good luck on New Year's day (I didn't know this when I was planning the ingredients for this dish). I chose the pork because I thought it would pair well with the lentils so I was thrilled to find out that I may get a double dose of good luck and prosperity in 2011!

Good luck and fortune aside, this dish is super yummy and very quick to prepare. Don't be put off by the number of steps and ingredients--it's not as bad as it looks. Total prep time (minus the time it took to clean the leeks) is less than 30 minutes. If you love pork and beans, you'll love this dish. I hope you get a chance to try it soon. 
Pork Fillet w/Lentils & Charred Leeks
Pork Fillets w/Lentils & Charred Leeks
Seasoned & Stirred by LBTurner

Serves 4

Pork Fillets
4 medium-sized uncooked pork fillets (approx. 4oz. each)
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound dried green lentils
5 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

1/4 pound fresh, cleaned & dried leeks (may be sliced or chopped)
2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
pinch salt & pepper

Balsamic Pepper Jelly Sauce
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons pepper jelly*
1 tablespoon fruit preserves (plum, apple or apricot)
3 tablespoons A-1 or other steak sauce
1/8 cup white wine
pinch salt


1. Start w/ the lentils. Place the lentils in a large bowl or pot and run cold water over to clean and reduce some of the starch. You may have to change the water several times to rinse thoroughly. Check the lentils to make sure there are no small stones or other undesirable matter in them. Drain the water from the lentils. Put the lentils in a medium-sized pot and add all of the other ingredients (water and seasonings). Cook on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes--stirring occasionally--until the lentils are tender. Drain any excess water, cover with a top and set aside. *Lentils will triple in quantity once they are cooked. For this recipe you will only need two cups of cooked lentils. Store the remaining lentils in the fridge to use in other dishes (soups, cold salads, etc.).

2. Clean the leeks. Trim the leek stalks by cutting the bottom close to the root and then cutting off the dark green tips. The white to very light green part of the leek is the best to cook with. You can use the dark green tips later for soup stock (be sure to wash them VERY well) or discard.  Once the leeks are trimmed, peel back the layers and holding the stalk upside down, hold under cold, running water. Check between all the layers to make sure they are cleaned thoroughly. Drain the leeks in a strainer or on paper towels. Dry thoroughly--blot dry with paper towels. Cut the leeks--slice into long strips as shown in the pic above or chop into 1/2 inch-thick rounds.  *This step, cleaning the leeks, is the most time-consuming step in the recipe so to save time, you may want to prepare your leeks the day before or several days in advance.

3. Cook the leeks and sauce. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet under med-high heat. Add the minced garlic, leeks, salt and pepper. Cook the leeks without turning or stirring them for a minute or so on each side. You want them to char a little but watch them so they do not burn. When the leeks are tender and slightly charred, remove them from the pan--placing them on a small plate or paper towel. Leave the skillet on the heat and reduce flame slightly. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan to get all the flavor bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking the wine 2-3 minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed in. *If you do not have the pepper jelly, you may substitute it with any flavor of jelly and add 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper or red pepper flakes.Let the sauce simmer on a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes. 

4. Cook the pork fillets. Note: For this recipe you can use a whole pork tenderloin and slice it into fillets, buy fillets at the butcher counter or bagged in convenient individually-wrapped portions. You may use plain or marinated fillets. The fillet is a very tender cut of meat but buying it in a marinade almost guarantees a more tender piece of meat. Beware, though, some marinades may contain a lot of salt/sodium so if you opt for the fillets in a marinade, you may want to reduce the salt in other areas of the recipe where you can.

If using marinated fillets, you can omit the seasonings in this recipe. Otherwise, season both sides of the pork fillets with the salt, pepper and paprika. Heat the oil in a large skillet under high heat. Cut the sprigs of thyme in half and add two pieces to the skillet. Place a fillet on top of each sprig of thyme (cook two fillets at a time so the pan is not crowded). Sear the fillets on high heat--approximately 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside to rest. Repeat steps for the remaining two fillets. After the fillets have rested (about three minutes) slice them for plating.

Plate the dish by putting 1/2 cup of the cooked lentils on the plate. Add the leeks and fillets and drizzle a little sauce over the pork. Garnish is optional but I used a teaspoon or so of chopped roasted red peppers just to give the plate a little color contrast. Enjoy! 

In a couple of days, I'll use the remaining lentils and leeks from this recipe to make a slightly creamy lentil and leek soup. Stay tuned...


  1. I had no idea lentils were considered lucky. I love them and we eat them often, I wonder if that will bring me good luck:) Your recipe sounds so good, it's making my mouth water. Yummy!

  2. Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by! Yes, maybe you've been enjoying blessings all along and didn't realize they were coming from the lentils you've been eating. Or, are they only lucky if eaten on New Year's day? LOL... Happy New Year!!!

    Btw, I missed the deadline for the "Your Best Lentils" contest at Food52. I posted the recipe yesterday afternoon and learned the deadline was midnight the night before. Maybe I should have eaten some of the lentils before I posted the recipe over there. :>)

  3. Gotta love a holiday that traditionally calls for lentils as a lucky food... It's certainly better wisdom than the rich dishes that Christmas calls for! ;)

    Happy New Year!

  4. Hi Lynn, Well I hope so and I'm going to start making them more often to see if it works:) LOL Oh, sorry that you missed the deadline too bad. They have contest all the time so maybe you can join the next one.
    I also stopped by to let you know I have a couple of awards for you. If you are interested in accepting please stop by:)

  5. What a gorgeous dish...I was raised by a Southern Chef so I know what you mean :)
    Stopped by from Nancy's (Spicie Foodie) to say hi, and you have a wonderful site here :)
    Happy New Year!

  6. @Hannah, I agree--lentils are yummy and very good for you and if they bring you good luck, that is icing on the cake. :>) Thanks for stopping by!

  7. @Nancy (Spicie Foodie), thanks--I'll definitely be on the lookout for other contests! Also, THANKS for the awards--that was very thoughtful of you! I'll stop by shortly to pick them up. Yaaay! \o/

  8. @Magic of Spice, thanks for stopping by and for the comments on the dish and site! It's fun to try new foods and techniques--especially when your attempts are successful. I love this dish and will definitely make it again. Btw, I just happen to be spice-obsessed so I love your name. :>) Happy New Year!

  9. a very happy and prosperous New Year to you and your family!

  10. @Uma, THANKS! Wishing a Happy New Year to you and your family as well.


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