Saturday, January 7, 2012
Traditionally risotto is an Italian rice dish made with Arborio rice--a short fat rice that is creamy and dreamy. After reading Lisa's post from 100 Days of Real Food here, I wanted to try a whole grain version, but I didn't have quick cooking brown rice and I sure didn't want to stand by the stove stirring for an hour or more. Not to worry. Because I had my own dreamy creamy solution to the whole grain problem. Farro. Remember farro? It's a whole grain in the wheat family. It even has the decency to be Italian. It cooks up quickly (at least my pearled farro does) and is creamy and toothsome in texture.
Risotto is still a hands-on dinner. It requires your presence. You have to stir it--not constantly, but regularly. Sometimes that can be a problem if there are 8 trillion other people requiring your presence while you're trying to cook dinner. However, if you can keep everyone in the kitchen so you can watch your pot, you should be fine. The other great thing about it requiring your eye and a bit of your attention is that you can finally clear out that dishwasher that should have been cleared out that morning. And maybe make up a nice golden batch of slowly sauteed onions (a la French onion soup) to be eaten with your meal or saved to make soup later.
adapted from 100 Days of Real Food
serves 2-4 depending on whether it's a side dish or main course
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: A little sketchy since my farro was a gift and I'm not sure how much it is, but about $2.10
(onion: .05, farro: .50, grape fuice: .10, stock--I used homemade so free; otherwise, about .30 if you use chicken granules, spinach: .30, chicken: .50, other stuff: .05, Parm cheese: .30)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp grated onion (this is probably about 1/4 C chopped onion, but I grate mine so as to disguise it from those who don't like its texture)
1 C farro
1/3 C white grape juice (traditionally white wine, but we don't have it on hand. If you're a teetotaler like us and don't have any white grape juice, you can use more chicken stock or water and throw in a tsp sugar)
3 C chicken stock (I used homemade)
2 C spinach
1 C shredded chicken
1/3 C Parmesan
1. Heat olive oil in a pan (medium heat). Add grated or chopped onion and stir until fragrant, but not brown.
2. In the meantime, heat your chicken stock in a saucepan. (Why do you do this? You want it to be warm so that it doesn't cook or significantly slow the cooking process as you make your risotto. Keep the stock on the stove at a low simmer as you prepare your risotto. You don't want it boiling like mad as it will boil too much away while you make your risotto, but you don't want it cool either.)
3. Add farro (to the oil/onion mixture, not to the stock) and stir for a couple minutes to lightly toast the grain. (Why do you do this? It helps the grain hold its texture throughout the cooking process.)
4. Add the white grape juice to the farro and stir until it's absorbed (this won't take long at all).
5. Add a ladle-ful of stock to the risotto and stir. Keep stirring occasionally as the stock absorbs. (Why do I have to stir occasionally? Because this releases some of the starches and gives the risotto the appropriate texture when it's done.) Every time the stock is almost absorbed into the farro, add another ladle-ful, stirring occasionally until it absorbs. This is how you're going to spend the next 20 minutes. Simmer, stir occasionally, add another ladle-ful of warm stock, help your child spell 'continent,' and repeat.
6. In the meantime, chop the spinach and the chicken (we had leftover chicken from a roast chicken; otherwise you can use canned or boil a breast or skip it altogether and go vegetarian).
7. When you're just about to your last ladle or two of stock, add the spinach and the chicken and stir.
8. Add the last of your stock. Stir. Taste. This is important. The farro shouldn't be mush; it should be chewy and toothsome, but it shouldn't be rock-in-the-center either. If it's not done, add another 1/2 C of water and stir, allowing that to absorb. Note: You want a little bit of fluid to remain when you take this off the heat. It will probably absorb before you eat your meal, but if you let all the fluid get lapped up and then take the pan off heat, the bottom might dry out before you (finally) get all the kids to sit down at the table.
9. Add salt and pepper and taste, adjusting your seasonings if necessary.
10. Add Parmesan cheese and give it a stir or 2. Serve nice and warm.
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