Farro: it fed the legions, back when Rome was still hot shit.
Y’know before it became the omphalus mundi of Catholicism, nepotism and general debauchery in the Middle Ages.
If you don’t mind, I think I may take a little break and watch 30 Rock, and come back to this farotto with butternut squash, ham, walnuts and sage (from Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way) in half an hour.
Make that twelve hours, because I passed out on the couch like a two-year-old trying to wait up on New Year’s Eve or an eighty-year-old who got a little too stuffed at the early bird dinner, and just now got back to the computer.
So: farotto. As you may have guessed, it’s risotto made with farro instead of rice. Farro is one of my favorite grains; nutty and flavorful, nice and chewy, hard to overcook. The latter being especially important to me, as I get a little spastic with rice cookery. It can be a little difficult to find; I usually stock up when I go to Whole Foods, or order it from the interweb. Totally worth it, though.
The best farotto I ever had was at Perilla, Top Chef season 1 winner Harold Dieterle’s restaurant in the West Village – farro, artichoke confit, chile-roasted grapes and what must have been a metric ass-ton of mascarpone cheese.
This farotto, sadly, is not that farotto. Don’t get me wrong, though, this is still good stuff. It positively reeks of autumn and was the perfect hearty dinner for a chilly, rainy, blech fall day.
I started out by gently sauteeing some leeks until they softened then added the farro to toast followed by a glass of white white, which quicly reduced out. As you can see, the method is identical to traditional risotto. Squash – raw and grated – and sage went in with the first addition of chicken stock; the squash slowly breaks down, helping to create the sauce.
Four cups of stock later, the farro was cooked through but still toothsome, so I stirred in the pork followed by walnuts and grated parm.
The pork was supposed to have been country ham, which would have been KILLER in this. Sadly, I couldn’t find any so I bought smoked pork chops instead, which turned out to be not unlike Canadian bacon. Still, they brought a salty pork punch, so they served their purpose well.
I topped off my bowl with a sprinkling of walnuts, sage and cheese, and dinner was served.
Like I said, it’s goddamn autumn in a bowl. Nutty farro, subtly sweet squash, salty pork, and the insistent crunch of walnuts punctuating the dish perfectly. It’s hearty and filling and just plain makes you feel good.
I will warn you, it’s not quite as creamy as regular risotto. The farro is a little starchy, but not starchy enough to produce the thicker consistency associated with risotto. The squash helps a little, but it’s still noticably thinner; hence, Perilla fortifying it with mascarpone. Not that that stopped either of us from scarfing down our bowls.
I must also commend this book to you. It’s got great basic info and grain/liquid ratios for an astonishing array of whole grains, and tasty recipes like this one. I turn to it often.
And now, since it’s almost lunchtime, to leftovers!