Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chicken Farro "Risotto" with Saffron

Chicken Farro Risotto with Saffron

I love rice.  I love all types of rice including wild and brown rice. 

I love barley.  But I just can't seem to get into couscous and quinoa.  Perhaps it is a texture thing. 

But I do like a good Tabbouleh salad.  I used to order that at my local food court.

I REALLY love good Risotto.  I love everything about it; the creaminess; the starchiness, but most all, I love how the savory dish sounds:


No hands down, the BEST chicken Risotto I ever ate was a weekday special at Canaletto in Las Vegas many years ago.  I'm thinking it was about 2003 or 2004.  Mama Pirri (my mother-in-law) ordered it and I ate most of it.  

My recipe has all of the creaminess but it's made healthier with farro. 

Farro is one of the oldest grains cultivated by human beings.  It's high in vitamins A, B, C and E.   It is earthy and to me, it reminds me of a cross between barley and Arborio rice; both of which I have used to make risotto in the past. 

Contrary to popular belief, farro and barley are not the same thing.  Although they are often substituted for each other in recipes.  I also find that farro isn't quite as starchy as rice. 

Now, if you are already a farro "expert" you might be thinking, "Mary Kay, you are going to have to soak the farro all night before preparing this recipe." 

Well, actually, no you don't.  Here is a way to get the texture that you want for your farro "risotto" without having to go to all that fuss. 

Now, it does take a little longer than traditional risotto to prepare, but as trade off, it doesn't require as much attention as you would need to give it if you used Arborio rice.  We all like trade-offs, now don't we?

Well, enough chit chat.  Here we go with the recipe:

Note:   The rule for farro is three-to-one:  three cups of water for every one cup of farro 

Oh, and PS -  you will also notice this recipe uses one of my new favorite ingredients, Mediterranean spiced sea salt.  It is available in the spice section of your grocery store. 


1 cup Italian Pearled Farro
3 cups hot water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided*
2 tablespoons butter (one tablespoon cold), divided
1 tablespoon shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, stripped from stem and lightly chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine or non-alcoholic wine
6 cups chicken broth or stock, warmed through (lower sodium)
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite sized pieces
2 teaspoons Mediterranean spiced sea salt
Pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup 2/% milk, warmed through  
1/4 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheese blend
fresh parsley for garnish (optional but recommended)


Soak the farro in hot water for 30 minutes before preparing this recipe.  Drain off excess water before using.

Heat a large skillet or pan over medium heat. 

Add the butter and half of the oil.

Once the butter melts, add the shallot and the thyme.  Cook for about two minutes until the shallot begins to soften, but adjust heat accordingly so the shallot does not brown.

Add the strained farro.

Using a wooden spoon, spread the farro out evenly and let it toast up for a minute or two.  At this point, the shallot might begin to brown ever so slightly, but make sure that it doesn't go too far.  Once lightly toasted, add the white while.  Stir and let the wine evaporate and soak into the farro.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of your chicken stock or broth into the farro and stir about there or four times, reducing heat to low-medium.  Stir vigorously for about a half minute.    Repeat as necessary until most of your broth or stock (or all of it) is used, until the farro is tender with a little bite to the tooth (al dente).  This process should take about 38 minutes.

While the farro is cooking, add remaining oil to a sauté pan.  Heat until just under very hot. 

Add the chicken.  Do not season at this point, as you want the chicken to brown and the salt might prevent that from happening.  Resist the temptation to turn the chicken too quickly as it might tear.  The chicken will tell you when it's ready to turn (really).  It turn easily in the pan.  If needed, use a little of the hot chicken stock to deglaze your pan.

Once you turn the chicken in the pan, add the sea salt seasoning.  Finish cooking.  Stir and remove from pan to a bowl so it does not over-cook.

Add the remaining (cold) butter, the saffron threads and the warmed milk (suggest warming a few seconds in the microwave) to the risotto. 

Now, this is where MK's recipe departs from the norm: 

Normally your risotto would be done now, but to finish farro risotto, I use what I call the "Iron Dome" method. I use a lid that is too short for the lip of the pan, yet sits above the food, and rests on the side of your pan. 

Keep in mind, steam rises.  So you do not want to evaporate the steam too much.  You are concentrating the steam and the flavors with this method, if that makes sense.   It will finish cooking your farro with the warm milk.  Keep the dome in place over low heat for about five minutes.

Total cooking time - about 43 minutes.

Stir in the chicken and the parmesan cheese into the pan.
Plate and top with fresh chopped parsley.  

Serve immediately. 


*Have a little extra oil on hand.  Often you will need a little extra for your farro or the chicken, depending on the heat of your burners.  

Cook's Notes:  I used my own homemade stock for this recipe.  If using store bought, I recommend you use an organic brand which is lower in sodium. 

If you want to use all stock and no wine,  you can, but adjust the amount of sea salt you use.

Salt and pepper can be added at the table if necessary. 

See you soon!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tomato Braised Lamb Shoulder Blade Chops

I like to serve this lamb dish over cooked lentils and topped with sautéed greens and mushrooms.   Yum!

Okay, I know that I promised you "Italian" the next time I posted.  But this is more of a Mediterranean influenced recipe. 

Before I begin, I'd like to thank any of you who have thrown your support my way in the "Extended Stay" contest.   If you haven't seen that post, I added a link to my last post to the end of tonight's.  Thanks again for voting for me.  

If you wonder where I've been, there are lots of great cooking contests out there right now and I have been working on those.  As I have a day job, my time is limited.  But fall always brings more chances for me to blog, so I'll be stepping up the posting soon.

Also, I am thinking of updating the look of this blog again.  So parts of my blog may be under construction here and there, but it's only to make my blog better for you! 

Okay, enough chit chat.  How about a recipe?  I mean, that's what you really stopped by to see, right?

I love lamb chops.  When I think of them, I think of these petite chops or the "lollipops" which are often served as appetizers.  Those can be expensive.  I honestly go into shock every time I go to the checkout now.

Lamb shoulder blade chops are often a GREAT value.  They are often packaged as "steaks."  But every time I've bought them, I've tried to marinate and grill them or pan sear them, and they've curled up and turned into... well, not my best meal.  Frankly this time of year, as much as I LOVE to grill, major thunderstorms roll in. I don't mind grilling on the patio in the rain, but I think getting struck by lightning might hurt so I don't want to do that. 

Tonight when I discovered a secret:  BRAISING them.  Yes.  Unlike what the butcher's label often tells you to do, these chops are most delicious braised.  

You still marinate them; oh, yes you do, but then you quickly pan sear them to hold in the juices, and then slow braise them in a flavorful tomato sauce laced with white wine and Worcestershire -  and it makes them so nice and tender. 

If you like lamb, you're going to love this recipe!

So here we go:

This recipe serves two (2) with lots of sauce.  See my note at the end for doubling the recipe.  Unlike many of my recipes, this one will need just a little tweaking if doubling. 


2 Lamb Shoulder Blade chops, bone in, about 1 1/2 lbs. total
1/8 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced and divided
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
1/8 tsp. salt free table blend seasoning (select a brand with includes cumin if possible, or add a pinch of cumin)
1 small lemon, juiced and rind reserved
2 springs rosemary, plus 1/2 tbsp. chopped rosemary
1/8 tsp. Mediterranean sea salt
1 can (15 ounces) original recipe stewed tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp. concentrated beef stock
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup dry white wine or non alcoholic wine

Note:  You can substitute beef stock for the concentrated stock and wine to keep it "family friendly."  Adjust salt accordingly depending on the salt content of your stock.

Add the lamb to a bowl or container suitable for marinating.

Add the olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, Cayenne pepper, and salt free table blend to a bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice. 

Pour the mixture over the lamb and add the rosemary springs and lemon rind on top of the chops (steaks).  Marinate for at least an hour, but no more than 90 minutes.  Acid tends to cook meat and you don't want that. 

Get a sauté pan smoking hot. 

Pull off any large garlic chunks of marinated lamb but do not pat dry.  You need the oil to get the sear.

Add the rest of the oil to it and sear the chops on both sides; about one minute each just to get a nice sear - longer if you need to, but no more than two minutes each side.

Transfer to a glass baking dish.  Season with the sea salt. Flip lamb and season the other side.

Mix together the tomato, concentrated beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, wine the remaining garlic and reserved chopped rosemary. 

Pour the braising mixture over the lamb.

Carefully cover with foil so that the foil isn't touching the tomatoes. 

Bake at 275 for one hour until lamb is well one and falling off the bone. 

You are going to LOVE this recipe.

Cheers!  I'll see you soon.

Note:  If making four (4) servings, use half of the juice from the second can of tomatoes, and 1 1/2 tbs. of the concentrated both.

To serve:  I like to serve this over cooked lentils with sautéed collard greens and mushrooms. 

Link to previous blog post:  SEND MK TO NYC!