Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cheesy Baked Farro

I occasionally get the hankering for something warm, cheesy and gooey.  I came across this recipe a while back when I was watching Giada on Food Network. It caught my attention because the way she was cooking it was exactly like a mac and cheese but with farro instead of pasta.  I love farro so I had to try it.

From Giada at Home and I added minor notes
Makes 6 to 8 servings

Vegetable cooking spray

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups warm whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup grated Fontina
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (I used whole wheat panko crumbs)
Olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven at 400 degrees F.  Spray 13 by 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

For the sauce:  In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce it thick and smooth, about 8 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil).

For the farro: In a large bowl, add the cheeses and stir to combine.  Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and reserve.  In a large stock pot, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the farro, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain, if necessary.  Add the farro, thyme, and sauce to the bowl with the cheese.  Stir until combined and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese.  Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake until the top is golden brown and forms a crust, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Farro looks like this.  It is a hearty grain and goes great in salads and savory dishes.  I always find it at Whole Foods.

I wanted to show you guys step by step pictures of how a bechamel sauce is made.  It is the basis of any traditional mac and cheese or lasagna and good to know.

Step 1:  You first melt the butter over medium heat.
Step 2:  Add the flour and whisk.  You want to cook off some of the raw flour taste and that is why you cook it for a minute or so.
Step 3:  Gradually add the warm milk to the mixture and keep on whisking.  Notice that the milk is warm to make sure the mixture combines well.  I added mine to the microwave for 30 secs, gave it a stir, microwave again for 30 secs and gave it a stir before adding it into the mixture. 
Step 4:  Add rest of warm milk and keep on whisking for 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

I always spend the extra money for fresh herbs.  It makes a world of a difference in taste and it's good for you!

These are pictures before and after baking.

Tada!  I worked out extra hard after eating this but it was all worth it!  The crunchy bread crumbs on the top balances the creamy texture of the farro.

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