A French Country Farmhouse Dinner – Herbes de Provence Pork Tenderloin w/ Braised French Lentils

Have you been looking for that perfect fall dinner menu for an upcoming evening with family and/or friends? Something special, something fabulously delicious, while at the same time, simple and mostly make-ahead?………….
……………… How about treating your dear one’s taste buds to an evening in lovely Provence, located in warm, sunny, southern France. Here at The Café, we’re posting French-inspired recipes all week. We’re having a fun giveaway and a guessing game which you can read all about here.

We’re celebrating my son’s wife, Lindsay’s birthday tonight, and I’m serving this delicious French-inspired dinner I know she’ll love! Lindsay, is every mother’s dream daughter-in-law; sweet, kind and super easy to get along with. She’s also one of my favorite guest bloggers – if you’re a frequent flyer here at The Café you already know all about my sweet Lindsay.  She’s a terrific little chef and her recipes are always well received.

Lindsay’s crazy about all the flavors of autumn, so I’m confident that this dinner will be a wonderful treat for her. But shhhhh, just don’t tell her what I’m preparing – I want it to be a surprise! Along with being a hearty, cool weather comfort meal, this dish also has a touch of delightful French sophistication with fresh herbs and “lentilles du Puy”, commonly called French lentils.

Lentilles du Puy probably won’t be found at your local, down-the-street grocer, but you can purchase them at many specialty shops and at markets like Whole Foods (in the bulk section). They are also available online. They’re just a bit more expensive than common lentils, but well worth it.


Why are Lentilles du Puy so special and unique? They stand out above others for several reasons; Lentilles du Puy have a wonderful, peppery flavor and, unlike many other lentils, remain firm even after cooking having less starch than most of their compadres. They’re grown in the volcanic soil around Puy, France and are esteemed by chefs all over the world. Lentilles du Puy have actually been granted an appellation d’origine contrôlée by the French government. In France they’re often highly exalted as “the caviar of lentils”. I bet you never knew that lentils could be so fancy-dancy, did you?! But wait till you taste these yummy Braised French Lentils – I have a feeling you’ll be wondering where they’ve been all of your life!
The pork tenderloin that I’m serving tonight is super simple; involving just a simple rub comprised of  garlic, sea salt (Maldon of course!), freshly ground pepper and a classic French, seasoning Herbes de Provence. It can be prepped early in the day and then either pan-seared and roasted in the oven or cooked on the grill. I’m kind of funny about messing up my kitchen when I don’t have to, so I really like to grill my pork whenever possible. Plus, since I’m not a super-duper grillmaster, I can give this responsibility to my dear husband and concentrate on other parts of the dinner.
I decided to keep the potatoes quite simple and figure-friendly using my Skinny Mashed Potatoes recipe. They’re amazingly tasty without any butter or cream. I use a secret ingredient which makes one totally forget about the high calorie, high fat, traditional mashed potato ingredients. I make these frequently as I’m a bit of a sucker for mashed potatoes, but like to keep our meals lean and healthy (for the most part). And if I’m indulging in cream and butter, I’d rather have it in a yummy dessert! How about you?
So now you have it! An entirely delightful  dinner in one post. I know I’ll be traveling (in my mind!) to Provence quite frequently this fall and winter as I re-create this wonderful meal you can too!

P.S. The give-away (a YEAR supply of Maldon Sea Salt) is open till midnight on Thursday. We’d love to have you in the drawing if you haven’t already done so!
Oh, and one other thing; I’ve made this with regular lentils and it was delicious, so if you can’t find the French lentils, no worries, just use regular green lentils – it will still be great!

Braised French Lentils w/ Herbes de Provence Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients for the pork rub:
1 large (or 2 small) pork tenderloin/s, about 1½ pounds, visible fat removed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for cooking the lentils:
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
½ medium small onion
2 bay leaves
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
Ingredients for braising the lentils:
3 slices smokey bacon, diced in 1/2 inch pieces (I like to use applewood smoked bacon)
2 medium carrots, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup low sodium chicken broth, more for finishing
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Skinny Mashed Potatoes
1. Early in the day prep the pork by combining the olive oil, Herbes de Provence, sea salt, garlic and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Rub mixture liberally over tenderloin to coat all surfaces. Wrap meat in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. This can be done 6-8 hour in advance. Remove from refrigerator about ½ hour before cooking.

2. Rinse lentils under cold running water and look over them carefully, discarding any bits of stone or debris.

3. Combine lentils with onion half and bay leaves in a medium sauce pan. Add the 2 cups of chicken stock. Simmer, uncovered until lentils are cooked and liquid has mostly evaporated, about 20-30 minutes.  Check lentils at this point and make sure they’re tender. If not, had a bit more chicken broth, cover pan and cook for about 5 more minutes over low heat. Remove and discard onion and bay leaves.

4. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until golden and crispy. Remove pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside. Increase heat to medium high.

5. Add the pork and sear, cooking until browned on all sides. Remove tenderloin from the skillet and place into an oven-safe dish. Roast the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads about 145-150˚F, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and tent with foil for 5 minutes before slicing.

6. If you decide to grill your pork, skip step 5 and see note below.

7. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the cooking fat leaving any browned bits in the pan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add the diced carrots, celery, onion and the minced garlic. Gently sweat for a few minutes.

8. Add the wine and continue cooking until most of the wine has cooked off, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock, lentils and reserved bacon. Bring to a gentle simmer and reduce until liquid reaches a light sauce consistency.

9. To finish, gently stir in parsley and thyme. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Add a bit more chicken stock if lentils become too dry – you want them a bit soupy. Serve in shallow bowls with sliced pork and mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with a bit more chopped herbs for garnish, if desired.

Serves 4
To grill pork tenderloin: heat a grill to medium high. Scrape grates and spray with cooking spray or oil with oil soaked paper towel and tongs. Place pork on grill and grill until golden brown on all sides, turning every 3-4 minutes. When nice and brown, turn off one burner and cook pork indirectly until instant thermometer reads between 145 and 150˚F. Remove from grill and tent with foil for 5 minutes before slicing.
French Braised Lentil recipe adapted from Gourmet Thesis

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