As promised here’s the second part of last week’s NOLA inspired dish of Ginger Beer Pork Cheeks. These lentils are a really flavorful side dish which, while fantastic when paired with the pork cheeks, can easily stand on its own as a separate dish or even side salad. Like revenge I think they’re best served cold to contrast the cooked pork.
I originally wanted to incorporate pickled ginger with the pork cheeks. At the time I hadn’t come up with the lentils idea and thought I’d just serve the pork over rice and envisioned putting a few ginger slices on top of the sauced pork to counteract the sweetness. That all changed when I saw the yellow lentils in the grocery store. I figured if I was going to really put in the effort to create a fantastically layered sauce and pork dish I needed to go all in with the background too, not just for flavor but visually as well. The dish needed to pop! Once I decided to use the lentils everything else kind of fell into place and the pickled ginger was transformed from being a garnish to an ingredient. I really like the ginger and watercress together, a sweet tanginess with the radish-like peppery flavor of the watercress. By the way, I think watercress is very underutilized. The next time a recipe calls for arugula, change it out for some watercress, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s more than just for tea sandwiches!
For the most part this is a very easy dish to assemble and there’s minimal cooking involved. While you can use some jarred pickled ginger I can honestly say it is very very very easy to make your own. It takes about 5 minutes to make so you can mix up a batch of pickling brine before going to work, put the ginger in and then set it in the fridge to pickle away all day. By the time you get home, it’s ready. Now, one thing about this recipe, by the time I got to it my palate was quite gingered out from the pork cheeks and the basil-apricot-ginger sauce so you may want to ease in the quantities. Everyone who tasted this said the flavors were spot on but you may not like ginger as much as them!
Yellow Lentils with Ginger and Watercress (makes 4 servings)
- 1 C dried lentils
- 4 C water
- 2 oz guanciale (pancetta, bacon), diced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 Tbs pickled ginger, minced (see below)
- 2-3 Tbs pickled ginger juice
- 1 C tightly packed watercress leaves
In a medium sized saucepan combine the water and lentils, season with salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes, until lentils are tender but still firm. You don’t’ want them to turn to mush. Drain and set aside to cool until later.
Cook the guanciale and shallot in a saute pan over medium heat until gunaciale has crisped and shallots are soft, about 5 mins.
Stir mixture into cooked lentils. Add watercress and pickled ginger. Stir in juice to taste. Season to taste.
- 3-4 medium sized ginger roots
- ½ C water
- ½ C apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Peel the ginger and cross-cut into thin rounds. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove. Boil for 5 minutes.
Place the ginger slices in a small jar and pour the pickling liquid over them. Make sure the slices are covered with liquid. Allow liquid to cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. As always, the longer the better. If you make it in the morning it will be ready for use at dinner time.