Farro Risotto

A quick and lovely dinner for one or side dish for more. Unlike risotto made with rice, farro adds a lovely nutty flavor and also a good serving of protein, so you can easily make this vegetarian without sacrificing nutrition or flavor! Farro benefits from an all-in-one cooking method, which means you don’t have to stand over the pot constantly stirring it and adding hot broth, as with rice-based risotto.

Farro Risotto

  • Servings: 1+ or 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This risotto should be made with equal parts stock and white wine – chose a nicely acidic wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or use all stock and add the juice from half a lemon or a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Beyond that, the flavor variations are endless. I’m giving you my favorite version here, with apples, tarragon, and a little poached chicken on top, but I also love this dish with steamed pumpkin stirred through, sautéed mushrooms, whole cherry tomatoes that pop a bit in the heat, or simply with herbs and lemon. Have fun with flavor combinations or just clear out your produce drawer!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup farro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 of a medium sweet onion, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 of a firm, dry apple, diced
  • 2 tablespoons dried French tarragon
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon fine lemon zest
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 1/4 pound chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried French thyme
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, cut into fine ribbons


Directions

Soak farro in 1 cup of warm water while you prepare the other ingredients.

Melt butter with extra virgin olive oil in medium saucepan. Sauté minced onion over medium-low heat with pepper and a pinch of salt until just translucent. Toss in half of the diced apples and sauté another couple of minutes, until the apples have taken on a bit of color. Drain farro and add to the pan, sautéing for 2 minutes to toast. Then add the tarragon and cook for only another 60 seconds to bloom the flavor.

Add all white wine to the pan at once, stir until hissing stops. Add chicken stock, lemon zest, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Check seasoning, you may need a little more salt and pepper here.

Turn burner to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the farro is tender.

While the farro is cooking, make the chicken: Heat a glug of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in a small sauté pan. Toss chicken in oil for a minute. Add thyme (rubbing it between the palms of your hands over the pan to release thyme-y oils) and sauté for another minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon over it. Stir for another minute or two and it is done.

When the farro is done, remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Stir through remaining diced apple and then turn off the burner. With the pot off the heat, quickly stir the spinach through the farro to just barely wilt it. Serve topped with the chicken.

* On butter – I am lactose intolerant but can eat butter, as is fairly common. If you can’t, replace the butter with your favorite non-dairy option, but do try to find one without palm oil!

A note on dried herbs – We hear all the time that fresh herbs are better. And they can be… if they are really fresh, readily available, and are going into the right recipe. But dried herbs are more convenient, more affordable, and sometimes the better choice for the recipe. Fresh herbs are great when they are raw or can be added to something just before serving it because their flavors break down really quickly in heat. When the herbs are going into a recipe with sauce/stock and a little bit of fat where they will simmer for awhile, dried herbs actually give better flavor and texture. The key is to buy good dried herbs and to not let them get too old in your cupboard (some people say toss them all after 6 months, but I think this is unrealistic – just replace them when they start looking too grey and lose their good scent). I buy almost all of my herbs from Penzeys because there is a significant difference in the quality, scent, and flavor, and the price is essentially the same as everyday grocery store brands. I notice a huge difference in my cooking when I use better dried herbs, and I encourage you to check out Penzeys or another quality producer for yourself! Up your flavor game!

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