This farrotto—farro cooked in the style of risotto—from Sean Brock's new cookbook, Heritage, is the perfect foil to the artfully composed, modernist plates that make up most of the book: it's a warming, rustic potful of fall flavors.
He takes the same level of care here as he does with those multi-component dishes, however, and this is not a throw-it-together meal. Much of the flavor comes from his homemade, fennel-rich vegetable stock, and as tempting as it is to skip that time-consuming step, I wouldn't recommend it. After that's squared away, acorn squash is roasted and blended with some of the stock, resulting in a silky, aromatic purée that I would be happy to eat all on its own. Farro, preferably Anson Mills, is then toasted and attentively stirred with onion, garlic, wine and the stock for about an hour, until creamy and tender (though it retains that hearty farro chew). Ribbons of kale are added to wilt gently throughout, and the squash purée, butter and Parmigiano cheese melt into the farrotto, turning it to velvet.
Why I picked this recipe: It's so, so perfect for fall.
What worked: I loved eating this for days! The squash purée provides autumnal flavor and the silkiest texture, which is a counterpoint to the toothsome farro and slightly crunchy kale. The vegetable broth infuses the pot with layers of vegetal flavor through and through.
What didn't: My squash needed 10 more minutes in the oven than the time suggested, but follow his directive to cook until fork-tender (erring on the side of more done rather than less), and you'll be fine. I found it a bit irritating that the recipe calls for 2 quarts plus 1 cup of the Vegetable Stock, though the stock recipe only makes 2 quarts.
Suggested tweaks: I made 1 1/2-times the stock recipe, and got about 2 cups less than the 3 quarts I should have ended up with; if you want any stock left over, go ahead and double the recipe. If you have another stock on hand that you love, you could use that, but know that the flavor of the stock will be predominant in the final dish. Once again, I cheated and did not use Anson Mills farro, which I'm sure would have made this even more delicious; however, it worked great with the farro I had on hand. As to tweaking the flavors, Brock says in the recipe's intro: "Here I pair farrotto with fall flavors, but it can be a vehicle for whatever looks great at the farmers' market. Just keep in mind that farrotto brings a bit more heft to the plate than a traditional risotto."
Excerpted from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.
- Acorn squash
- 1 small acorn squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Scant 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 cup Vegetable Stock
- 1 bunch Red Russian or other kale (about 3 pounds)
- 2 quarts Vegetable Stock
- 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 1/2 cups Anson Mills Farro Verde
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup diced white onion
- 1 garlic clove, sliced paper-thin
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For the squash: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Cut the squash in half. Remove and discard the seeds and rinse the squash under cold water. Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the butter between the two halves and sprinkle with the salt and white pepper. Roast the squash for 35 minutes, or until fork-tender.
While the squash is roasting, prepare the kale: Remove the stems and ribs from the leaves. Make stacks of the leaves, roll them into cylinders, and cut them into very thin ribbons. Wash the kale in a sink of cold water, changing it several times, to remove any sand. Drain and dry with paper towels.
When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and pour the butter and juices from the cavities into a container. Let the squash cool enough to handle.
Warm the stock in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and juices from the cavities of the squash.
Peel the squash. Place the pulp in a blender, add the warm stock and juices, and blend on high to a very smooth puree, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
For the farrotto: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Heat the stock in a partially covered large saucepan over medium heat; keep warm over low heat.
Heat the canola oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the farro and stir to coat it with the oil. Place the skillet in the oven and toast the farro for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes. Transfer the farro to a bowl and reserve. Wipe the skillet clean.
Put the empty skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, about 2 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Add the toasted farro to the pan and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the warm stock, reduce the heat to medium, and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed. Continue cooking, adding 1/2 cup of warm stock at a time, stirring to prevent scorching and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until the farro grains have expanded and are al dente, about 1 hour. The farro will look creamy like risotto. (The farro can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over low heat before proceeding.)
To complete: Remove the farro from the heat, add the squash puree and kale, and stir until the kale is wilted. Put the skillet back over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Stir and serve.