Reading John Birdsall’s hefty biography of James Beard, The Man Who Ate Too Much, motivated me to go through some of Beard’s cookbooks. He was prolific author and definitely earned his place among those cooks who influenced American cuisine by emphasizing seasonality, using local ingredients, and eschewing the mid-century elitism epitomized in Gourmet Magazine and its Francophile editors.
Late fall, an unusually cold day, and farro in the cupboard. This was the setting that set me off looking for a recipe for a comforting weekday-night dish. My search uncovered several appealing recipes for farro “risottos,” but, wanting to do a little less work, I eventually settled on a recipe from Ina Garten’s Make It Aheadcookbook that bakes farro with onion, butternut squash, thyme, bacon, and Parmigiano Reggiano. The previously browned bacon and grated cheese top the casserole for the last 20 minutes of baking, and the aroma makes waiting for this dish torture.
The nutty flavors of the farro combined with the sweetness from the squash and the savoriness of the bacon and cheese made for a perfect fall or winter main course or even a side.
Although we thoroughly enjoyed this dish the first night, it was too much for two to finish. A few night later, I decided to reheat what was left over by putting it in a sealed freezer bag, which I then simmered in hot water for about 20 minutes. While the texture may have suffered some from reheating, the flavors were still exquisite.
Baked Farro and Butternut Squash from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten
Serves 6 to 8
6 thick-cut slices applewood-smoked bacon
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups pearled farro
3 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 cups (¾ -to 1-inch-diced) butternut squash
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the bacon on a baking rack set on a sheet pan and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes, until browned (it won’t be crisp). Cut the bacon in very large dice.
Meanwhile, in a small (9-inch) Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender and starting to brown. Add the thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook for one minute.
Add the farro and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Place the squash on top of the farro mixture, cover, and bake in the same oven with the bacon for 30 minutes, until the squash and farro are tender. Check once during cooking and add a little chicken stock if it’s dry.
Sprinkle the bacon and Parmesan on the squash and faro and bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, the farro and butternut squash are tender, and the cheese has melted. Serve hot directly from the pot.
Note: Peel butternut squash and cut it in half so it doesn’t wobble while you dice it.
MAKE IT AHEAD: Assemble the dish, including the bacon and Parmesan, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bake before serving..
Reprinted from Make it Ahead. Copyright © 2014 by Ina Garten.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay