There is something innately punk rock in me. If everyone is doing it, I just can’t jump on board. Be it fashion, books, or food. I don’t own a pair of skinny jeans or anything furry or Ugg related. It took me years (much to my disappointment) to read David Sedaris (seriously, everyone was reading David Sedaris, so I, of course, read Steinbeck), and I’ve resisted farro. For the past year or so farro has been the big “foodie” item. Every food magazine you pick up is talking about farro. Blogs? Farro. So I just couldn’t join in. My punk rock sensibilities wouldn’t allow it.
This week, however, I gave in. While sifting through the Zuni Café Cookbook I came across a recipe involving farro. My first instinct, as always, was to consider the alternatives. Arborio? Barley? Hmm, well, OK maybe I’ll try farro. Just this once.
And it was OK, the first night. But just OK. I sat with Adam as we ate this somewhat boring dinner I wondered where I went wrong. After each bite, “should I have added more lemon zest?” or “can you even taste the sage?” and “I should have been heavier handed with the spices and mushrooms” “ I should have added parmesan and made a true risotto” “Lamb?”
Adam is so patient with me.
But this dish, although it won’t knock your socks off, is significantly better the next day. Farro is a dominant little grain. It stays chewy and nutty and, I found, it absorbs liquid but holds its own against other flavors. Letting it sit for a day allowed those taste to penetrate and the dish opened itself up to find its balance. The flavors need time to meld and mingle and the sage will begin to gently reveal itself after lingering for 24 hours.
Although it was definitely a challenge and not very accommodating (perhaps farro is a little punk rock too), at least at first, I think farro will stay on my list of foods to play with.
Curious, what’s your experience with farro?
P.S. I LOVE photographing mushrooms, hence all of the mushroom shots in today’s post. Their monochromatic nature of them really turns me on.
Adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook
What you’ll need~
1/4 cup olive oil
About half of a yellow onion, diced
3-4 dried sage leaves, crumbled. Or 3 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
1/4 lb Oyster, or other fresh mushrooms, chopped
1-1/3 cups farro
1/2 cup green lentils
Zest and juice from one lemon
5-6 cups chicken broth (I used pre-made but I think homemade would have made a noticeable difference in flavor)
1 bunch watercress, gently torn
Salt and pepper to taste
Percorino Romano, shaved
2 chicken breast, poached, or cooked how you like, and shredded
Warm about half of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, sage, pinch or two of salt and fresh
mushrooms. Cooking, stirring often, until the onion is translucent.
Reduce heat to medium low and add the farro and the remaining olive oil. Stir to coat the farro.
Add one-third of your stock and dried mushroom.
Cook at a simmer, stirring often, until the stock has been absorbed.
Add lentils and next third of stock stirring often until stock has been absorbed. Repeat adding stock and stirring until farro and lentils are tender. This may take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour.
Stir in lemon zest and juice.
Remove from heat, stir in watercress and chicken, cover and let sit. The heat from your stew will gently wilt your watercress.
Serve warm with a generous shaving of pecorino romano.