As cooler weather approaches, I start to get excited about all of the delicious foods of fall. I started making this four or five years ago from a recipe by Tyler Florence. It has morphed many times over the years as a certain sister had it on request repeat – but I never seemed to have the recipe, or all the ingredients i needed (I have since figured out that organization and planning can be quite helpful when cooking). It was really this recipe (or lack thereof) that taught me how to experiment and improvise with what I had, and making that part of the fun of being in a kitchen. I finally taught my (slightly kitchen-averse) sister, Lauren, how to make this and I think she saw that something so tasty was also easy to make. She has been a cookin’ fiend ever since and has taught me a thing or two recently! Lauren introduced me to farro pasta, which so is amazing, I dont think I will ever make whole wheat pasta again. I was making it recently for the two of us, when she swooped in and suggested caramelizing some diced onion, mixing the pesto into that, perhaps tossing in some tomatoes, and then adding the cooked farro. Let me tell you, it was so good I have made it three times since then (then being about a month ago).
I find this dish much more interesting than your average risotto because the farro retains its nutty texture and compliments the rich creaminess of the mushrooms…this is a particular favorite of mine, if you hadn’t noticed. I love using a few different kinds of mushrooms, but feel free to do your own thing.
With the stems of the mushrooms you can make a simple mushroom stock that will really enhance the flavor and shroominess of the dish. The longer this simmers, the more concentrated the flavor will be, but any amount of time is better than nothing. To make the stock: heat up a large pot, toss the stems in (and onions if you have them on hand), and brown slightly. Fill the pot with at least 10 cups of water and let boil away for as long as possible, strain when ready to use.
Farro is an ancient cousin of wheat that is usually sold in its “semi-pearled” state, meaning some of the bran has been removed during an abrasive polishing process. It should be relatively easy to find, but if you have trouble, here are some excellent substitutions (just make sure you look at the packaging for cooking time – they all work, you just need to plan accordingly):
- Barley: like farro is has a nice nutty flavor as well as being a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and is a heart-healthy soluble fiber. It comes in three forms: whole kernels (40-50min), hull-less (35-40), and pearled (30min).
- Wheat Berries: whole kernels of wheat that vary in type (hard, soft, winter, spring, red, and white) but taste pretty much the same. They take 50-60min to cook and will always remain slightly chewy.
↑this picture shows what you are looking for when I say that most of the liquid has been absorbed (as opposed to the one above it).
2 tbl fresh thyme
1 lb mushrooms
½ cup white wine
8-10 cups stock or water
2 cups farro
Dice the shallots and remove thyme leaves from stem (this can be quite labor intensive so an alternative would be to tie the thyme with cooking twine and to remove at the end – don’t just throw the time in or you will have little twigs on your dinner plate). Clean and slice the mushrooms.
Heat some oil in a large sauté pan (with straight sides), add in the shallots and thyme, and season with salt to get the shallots sweating. Once shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes, add in the mushrooms and cook until they have released their moisture, about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then stir in the farro.
Start adding your liquid, 2 cups at a time, stirring often, and when most of the liquid has been absorbed, add in the next 2 cups. After about 30 minutes you want to decrease each liquid addition to 1 cup and before you pour it in, taste the farro for doneness.