by Sheila Connolly
Here’s another recipe from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Make It Ahead. Let’s start with that farro—what the heck is it? No, we’re not talking about the 17th-century French gambling card game. But nobody seems quite sure what it is. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
There is some confusion as to what farro is. Spelt (Triticum spelta), Emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn (Triticum monococcum), are called farro in Italy, sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro grande, farro medio, and farro piccolo, respectively. Emmer grown in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany is known as farro, and can receive an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which by law guarantees its geographic origin. Emmer is by far the most common variety grown in Italy, in certain mountain regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo. It is also considered to be of a higher quality for cooking than the other two grains and is sometimes called "true" farro.
Yeah, sure, okay (Ina, what have you gotten me into?). Simple solution for the rest of us cooks: go to your grocery store or health food store and buy a bag of the stuff, or order it on line. Bob’s Red Mill has it. (And I daresay you could substitute any of the other grains mentioned if you can’t find farro.)
Then there are the mushrooms. Ina wanted me to use dried crimini mushrooms. My local grocery lacks imagination, so they had only one kind of dried mushroom, and it was not crimini. So I used porcini mushrooms. They worked fine. Likewise, there was little choice in fresh mushrooms, so I used sliced shitake mushrooms. Use whatever sturdy mushrooms you can find at your own store (but not the more delicate ones like oyster mushrooms).
|Dried porcini mushrooms|
Mushroom and Farro Soup
1-1/2 oz dried wild mushrooms
3 Tblsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced
3 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups diced carrots
4 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup farro (or other grain of the wheat family)
12 oz fresh mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced
4 cups beef broth
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt and pepper
Cover the dried mushrooms with 6 cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for at least 20 minutes. Longer is fine.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the pancetta and let the fat render for a few minutes, over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots, coat well with the oil, and continue to cook until the carrots are tender.
Add the garlic and the farro and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to release some liquid.
Strain the dried/soaked mushrooms through cheesecloth to remove any lingering grit (saving the liquid!). Chop them coarsely and add them to the pot, along with the strained liquid, the beef broth, thyme, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, until the farro is tender. Discard the thyme.
2 Tblsp flour
2 Tblsp unsalted butter, room temp
4 oz creme fraiche
1/4 cup minced parsley
In a small bowl, mash the flour and butter together to form a paste, then stir by spoonfuls into the hot soup. Simmer for 5 minutes (to cook the flour), then stir in the creme fraiche and taste for seasoning.
The result is a very tasty soup, hearty but not heavy. Serve with a wholegrain bread and you’ll have a nice meal for a winter’s evening. (And this recipe makes plenty of leftovers!)
All right, I know I've told you more than once that the next book in my County Cork Mystery series is coming out soon (February 3rd! at bookstores everywhere!). I was trying to figure out an appropriate way to go from exotic mushrooms to Ireland--and then I realized that on one trip to West Cork I had taken a lot of mushroom pictures. I was there at the beginning of December, and there were still mushrooms everywhere--and here they are.
Yes, that first one really is purple!
And here's the book. In An Early Wake, Maura brings music back to Sullivan's, and someone dies. But the music lives on!