This dish is from the recipe booklet American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland, one of the Time-Life series Foods of the World. This booklet is part of the regional American cuisines. The Eastern heartland doesn’t seem that well-defined to me. The states included in this “region” are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. There are quite a few recipes of Quaker origin, and there are some that have Philadelphia in the name, as in Philadelphia Pepper Pot. And then there’s Martha Washington’s Grand Leg of Lamb, and quite a few German recipes. I learned that the “Dutch” part of Pennsylvania Dutch is derived from Deutsch, which explains the German influence.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction by James Beard:
“Eastern Heartland cooking is stick-to-the-ribs stuff, more plain than fancy, given to substantial meat dishes, dumplings, breads, pies. It does not have the austere background of the New England style, or the glamorous background of some of the Southern style; but it is hearty, appetizing, often exciting and always good.”
No matter the ill-defined description of this culinary region, the recipes all look good. According to my notes, I have made and loved the corn custard, the pumpkin bread, the Philadelphia cinnamon rolls, deviled short ribs, stuffed fresh ham, as well as this recipe.
I’m sure you all know how much I love lentils by now – they’re inexpensive, and so good for you. They require a little soaking time, but even that can be sped up with hot water, and then the cooking process is quick and easy. If you use good lentils, like my favorite French variety Le Puy, I guarantee that you can’t oversoak or overcook them. Unlike the inexpensive larger lentils that mush up at a moment’s time, Le Puy keep their shape.
I hope you can find good smoked pork chops where you live, because this combination is perfect. There’s nothing terribly unique to this recipe – it’s just good and perfect for fall.
Smoked Pork Chops and Lentils
16 ounces lentils, I prefer Le Puy
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 cups chicken stock, fresh or canned
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 six-ounce smoked loin pork chops, each cut about 1 inch thick
To start, pour the lentils into a deep bowl and cover them generously with water. Let them sit a couple of hours to hydrate, or even overnight. There shouldn’t be too much extra water. If there is, drain the lentils before proceeding with the recipe.
In a heavy 4- to 5-quart casserole, heat the oil over medium heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the onion and sauté until barely translucent. Add the garlic and stir for a minute or so, then pour in the soaked lentils and chicken stock.
Add the seasoning, then bring to a simmer. Let the lentils cook for about 20 minutes.
Add the parsley, and then stick the pork chops in the lentils using tongs. Cover the chops with lentils.
Cover the casserole tightly, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes minutes. Add a little more broth if the lentils are drying up too quickly.
Taste for seasoning and serve at once, directly from the casserole or, if you prefer, mound the lentils on a heated platter and arrange the pork chops attractively around them.
Sprinkle with sliced green onions and more chopped parsley, if desired. Or some fresh thyme leaves.
Because these pork chops are already fully cooked, an alternative is to give them a nice sear in a skillet, but I wanted to respect the original recipe.