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!

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