October 28, 2008

Weekend Cooking: Farro Risotto with Pears


I had a cooking breakthrough a couple week’s ago, right about when I made the best tart ever. I realized there are two kinds of cooking, one utilitarian and the other more leisurely, and unfortunately, I was only doing one of them.

Weeknight cooking I’m all too familiar with. It involves me arriving home in sweaty gym clothes, flailing around the kitchen, often a little grumpy and stressed, manically trying to create something to eat before the dum-dum starting bell of Law & Order.

Weekend cooking is baking something. It’s letting something simmer and humming while I chop. It’s relaxed, experimental, and, you don’t need me to tell you, way more fun. But sometimes by the time the weekend rolls around you’ve had enough of washing the dishes and stirring things yourself. You just want to be served. You want someone to set a plate before you, pour the wine, and take it all away when you’re done. And this is why I spend a startling chunk of money in restaurants.

But when I started cooking on Saturday night a few week’s ago, I remembered exactly what it is I love about cooking. I love the expanse of time without a hard deadline in sight. I like trying those recipes that have been clipped and sitting idly in notebooks for years. I like chopping and letting my mind wander, my curiosity and creativity percolate, and later, sitting with my beau at our round white table and having a dinner party for two.

Farro Risotto with Pears
Serves 4

When I was invited to a fancy luncheon hosted by Grana Padano with the promise that Lidia Bastianich herself would be in attendance, I couldn’t rsvp fast enough. Lidia was earthy, warm, and relaxed, just like she is on her show, and the risotto served was a total showstopper. When she came over and put her hand on the back of my chair and asked if I was enjoying myself (um, yes!), I told her I was a total convert to making risotto with farro. And I know it might sound crazy to say, but I think I like grana padano more than parmigiano reggiano. It has a sweetness that goes really beautifully with the pears in this risotto.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 small shallots, minced (about 1/3 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup farro
5 cups chicken stock
1 pear, peeled and minced
1/2 cup grana padano

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, in a wide pan with straight sides, combine olive oil and butter over moderate heat. When butter has melted, add shallots and garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Add farro and stir to make sure each grain is coated with butter and oil.

Ladle in a cup of hot broth and cook, stirring continuously, until the broth is absorbed. Continue this pattern of ladling and cooking for about 20 minutes. At that point, stir in the pear and continue to cook, ladling in broth and stirring, for another 10-15 minutes until farro is tender and risotto is creamy. Stir in grana padano and serve right away.

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  • shauna: “manically trying to create something to eat before the dum-dum starting bell of Law & Order. ”

    that sentence made my day :)

    this looks sooo delicious! i’m with you on the joys of grana padano too. i’ve not seen farro in the shops over here; will definitely track it down!
    7 years ago

  • sarah: if you miss the first minute you miss everything! you can definitely buy it online.

    7 years ago

  • Alyson Hill: Even though I’m like, 10 years older than you and half a world away, whenever Pink of Perfection is in bold type in my RSS feeder, I get SO excited. I really really enjoy your blog and your joi de vivre! Oh, and your risotto looks yummy too!
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: Alyson, !!! That is so great! And the feeling is mutual since I really love your Laura Ingalls-esque life and droll attitude.
    7 years ago

  • geek+nerd: Oh my! I am swooning over this recipe a little bit. Risotto and pears? I cannot wait to try this!

    You’re so right about utilitarian vs. leisurely cooking…I could go on and on about that one.
    7 years ago

  • sarah: I know, right? So different!
    7 years ago

  • Ruth: Mmm…what a nice twist on risotto! I love to eat out as well, Sarah–but I always come back to the satisfaction of creating a union with ingredients that may not have courted previously. Cooking and serving is not the issue–it is the cleanup…when all the glory is over, and your true heart of hospitality is put to the test.
    7 years ago

  • sarah: You hit the nail on the head, Ruth. The clean-up gets me everytime!
    7 years ago

  • Haley: My experiences with risotto have been quite unfortunate, but this recipe may just have enticed me to give it another go!
    7 years ago

  • sarah: I hope you’ll give it another try, Haley. This stuff is truly delish, and I think of the stirring as a mini-meditation…with wine.
    7 years ago

  • Sally Parrott Ashbrook: Lovely post. I love the same thing—standing in the kitchen either in utter concentration or letting my mind wander (depending on the task), and having something beautiful come out of it in the end.
    7 years ago

  • Kasey: What a unique pairing! I love farro, and always wish it was just a little easier to find in the grocery. Love the idea of combining its nuttiness with the tender flavor of pears!6 years ago

  • Nicky: Finally! I, too, prefer Grana Padano over Parmigiano Reggiano – always thought I’m the only one 😉
    If you like farro, have you ever tried spelt risotto? One of my favorites.6 years ago

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There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.
- Thomas Wolfe