I love when I am pleasantly surprised by a new recipe, as I was with this creamy, comforting farro risotto. (Although in hindsight, what's not to like?) It's just that all this talk about whole grains lately has had me lingering in culinary limbo—part of me has tried very hard to ignore the health-nut hype while the other part has been wondering what exactly I am missing.
I decided to dip my toe in the water with a classic risotto, using farro instead of the more traditional arborio rice. I was inspired when I saw this stunning recipe in the current Bon Appétit; the flavors were familiar enough to pull me in, and yet different enough to make me excited for something new.
I went off course from the magazine, and instead used the failproof method I learned in culinary school, one that has never before steered me wrong. I had to do some research on working with farro, but other than soaking and cooking the grain before starting the risotto, it really is just like any other version I have made.
In typical risotto fashion, it is not a quick-fix meal, but the results are so satisfying and delicious that it is worth every minute it takes to prepare. The farro adds a wonderful nutty flavor and just a slight crunch, bringing an element to the dish you can't find with plain rice. The sweet corn is a perfect transitional vegetable, combining a summertime favorite with the flavors of fall. No matter what time of year, this farro risotto would be good with any vegetable you could think of—I'll be adding lots of mushrooms in the winter and English peas in the spring.
I sat on my back porch yesterday to enjoy a quiet lunch, just me and a bowl of this steaming risotto. It was the first time in months it wasn't too hot; it seems the Southern air has cooled overnight. As a gentle breeze blew through the pines and the Georgia sun started to shift, I took a moment to appreciate my intimate moment with nature (both the weather and the grain). Turns out, I couldn't have dreamed up a better meal to warm my soul and welcome in the fall.
Farro Risotto with Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup semi-pearled farro
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups (or more) chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup yellow corn (from 2 ears)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes, for garnish
Fresh basil, for garnish
Soak the farro in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse.
In a medium saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Stir in olive oil and farro. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, add the chicken stock and warm over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions until cook until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and stir until every grain is coated with butter, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid evaporates.
Add 1/2 cup stock and stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, not adding more until the previous amount is absorbed. (It will take longer with each addition.) Stir in the corn with the final addition of stock.
Once all of the liquid has been absorbed and the farro is tender, about 20-25 minutes, fold in the remaining tablespoon butter (optional) and Parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish individual bowls with tomatoes and fresh basil. Serve with extra Parmesan, if desired.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)