I feel like, by this point in my ES career, there are certain things that we just can’t avoid. For example: I love healthy grains and making plays on risotto with them, I love mushrooms, and I love blue cheese. So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone when I introduce my next recipe creation: blue cheese and mushroom risotto made with farro instead of arborio rice.
Here’s why I like farro: It’s toasty and nutty with a toothsome bite, standing up to heavy sauces much better than plain ol’ rice. Not only that, but it’s freaking healthy! High in fiber, low in gluten, and packing 7g of protein per 1/4c serving, farro is a grain to be reckoned with. I mixed this with the usual risotto suspects (white wine, cheese, more cheese) with spectacular results. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this is a super healthy meal (because of the aforementioned cheese and more cheese), but it’s a step up from classic risotto thanks to all the benefits of farro plus a load of vitamins and minerals from the mushrooms and iron from the spinach. All in all… you could do a lot worse. Plus this combination is just plain delicious.
Mushroom and Blue Cheese Farrotto
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2c dry white wine, room temp
3-4c veggie or beef broth, room temp or warm
2c mixed mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, portobello – whatever you like best)
1c good quality, freshly shredded parmesan
1/2c blue cheese crumbles
2 sprigs worth of fresh rosemary, minced
salt & pepper to taste
Soooo, one thing to keep in mind about farro—it takes a little longer to cook than normal rice. But! A lot of recipes say stuff like you need to soak it overnight or boil for an hour, and I don’t know, you guys, I just don’t think that’s true. Farro is naturally firm and chewy, but if you let it get that waterlogged, it’s gonna be mushy and disappointing. Seriously, I would treat this pretty much the same as arborio rice, just know that you might have to let it cook just a bit longer. Make sure to taste and check for texture as you go along. You know how this works, right?
First of all: get a small skillet, put it on medium high heat, and coat the bottom with olive oil. Throw in your mushrooms, sprinkle them with a pinch of salt, and let them cook down for 10 minutes, until they’ve released and cooked off most their liquid and are just starting to caramelize. Take them off the heat and set them aside—you’ll mix them into the farrotto a bit later.
Okay, now splash a little bit of olive oil in the bottom of a large, deep skillet on medium heat and toss in the garlic and onion. Let it cook down until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add in your farro and let it toast up for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it starts smelling nice and toasty, add the wine and a cup of broth. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has slightly thickened and all the liquid is absorbed–then add another cup of broth and do it again. And again. You’ll use 3 or 4 cups of broth, maybe even more. In my experience, it can vary inexplicably. Risotto can be quite the mystery, but it always works out in the end. Just don’t undercook or overcook.
Once the farro is cooked all the way through and has thickened up, absorbing all the liquid it needs, add in the parmesan, spinach, rosemary, and mushrooms. Taste your concoction and add salt and pepper to taste. At the last minute, before serving, mix in the blue cheese crumbles. Garnish with more blue cheese and a small sprig of rosemary.
Feel free to experiment with other mix-ins. I love adding kale, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, chard, you name it. Almost any hearty, healthy vegetable tastes good when it’s coated in blue cheese and rosemary.