The other week I had the pleasure of doing a cooking demo with Hour Detroit, a Michigan lifestyle magazine. The ask was to cook a recipe for Hour fans at a kitchen design center here in Detroit.
So I got my thinking cap on and began recipe testing the perfect recipe for my first on-air cooking segment (video below!). It had to be springy but still hearty, accessible but interesting, and damn delicious. The winning recipe: this Spring Pea and Mushroom Farro Risotto.
Risotto is the first dish I learned to make as an adult. It is also one of the classic dishes my mom used to make for us growing up. As a single mom, she gravitated towards simple but flavorful dishes like risotto. Contrary to popular opinion, risotto isn’t some confusing, hard to follow dish. It’s actually quite simple, and is made with only a few ingredients.
I love risotto because of its hearty richness. And yet risotto is not made with loads of cream like in fettuccine alfredo; instead, it’s slowly cooked to release natural starches that thicken the dish to a creamy consistency.
For springtime, I wanted to create a risotto that was true to my roots, but with a healthy twist. So I opted for farro, one of my favorite grains. Farro is an ancient grain, which means it’s been around for thousands of years. It’s a hearty wheat used by the Romans and ancient Egyptians alike (I took an ancient grains class in college and learned all about farro, ha!). It is a complex carbohydrate, which means it breaks down slowly in your gut, and gram for gram has more protein than rice or quinoa. And it’s loaded with fiber, magnesium, and B3.
Farro has a soft but crunchy texture, so it holds up well in a dish like risotto that is usually more mushy. It releases fewer starches than a traditional arborio rice, but the creaminess and flavor are still there, so IMO it’s a win-win.
I added in a healthy dose of spring peas, too, which are now in season! Oh I just love fresh peas. Using fresh, uncooked peas provides the most wonderful crunch in this dish, and compliments the more earthy mushrooms wonderfully.
So! Recipe is below, as is the video. Can’t wait to hear what you all think!
8cups porcini or mini portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 1/2cups farro, rinsed and drained
2quarts chicken stock
1cup white wine (any crisp white will do, like a pinot or a chardonnay)
1 1/4cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons salted butter
1cup fresh (not frozen) peas (I got mine at Trader Joes and they’re perfect!)
zest of 1/2 lemon
micro greens, for garnish (optional)
Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into a caste iron pan over medium heat. Add in mushrooms, season with salt, and cook until medium brown and glossy, about 5 minutes.
Remove mushrooms from pan and allow to cool slightly on a cutting board before roughly chopping into pieces (keep it a really rough chop- you can leave some whole).
In the same caste iron pan, drizzle in another tablespoon of olive oil, then add in onions and cook over medium heat until translucent (about 5 minutes).
While the onions cook, pour the chicken stock into a small pot and simmer over low heat. Keeping your chicken stock warm will prevent the risotto from cooling as you add in the stock later on.
Add farro to onions and cook for one minute. Turn heat to medium low.
Add in white wine and 1/2 cup of the warmed chicken stock and stir. Once liquid fully absorbs, add in another 1/2 cup of chicken stock and stir. Repeat with remaining chicken stock, stirring frequently (process should take 45-50 minutes).
Last, stir in the grated parmesan, butter, fresh peas, lemon zest, and sautéed mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon). Garnish with parmesan and micro greens.