Since my roommate and I spend the holiday with our respective families, our own Christmas celebration always takes place the week before. We open presents, drink cocktails, listen to holiday music via PanicStream.com (luckily most of the songs are not actually sung by Widespread Panic), and generally merrymake. Since presents, Christmas, and Logan are three of my favorite things (not necessarily in that order), I was very excited about this event.
One of the things I look forward to every year is my roommate’s printouts. Logan is an excellent present giver, but his presents are often not physical, as they are either “activities” such as concert tickets, sushi making classes, etc., or they have not arrived in time for Roommate Christmas (forgivable). So, being the incredibly creative and resourceful human being that he is, Logan makes printouts describing the presents and then puts them in envelopes and decorates the tree with them. It looks ridiculous. Please see visual aid below.
In case you can’t read the writing in the picture of the deluxe comfort bathtub pillow with microbeads (soon to be my very own!), it says “My Swolf is so much more elegant than this budget wannabe Marie-Louise Parker bath model!!!” Logan is both a romantic and a wordsmith. And picturing him making and printing these out at work is practically a gift in itself. Apparently, it’s very stressful because he has to “sprint to the copy room” every time he prints out one of these masterpieces.
While Logan and I really cleaned up on the present front last night (I’m currently writing this in my brand new onesie), dinner was a major highlight of this year’s Roommate Christmas. Truth be told, I spent an embarrassing amount of time yesterday brainstorming what to serve for our festive holiday feast. I wanted something that would pair well with the infinity pounds of slow-roasted beef tenderloin I had in the fridge, but that was also slightly off the beaten path (i.e. not potatoes). Inspiration finally struck upon finding an old package of farro that I had forgotten about in the back of my kitchen cabinet. A few short hours later, a Christmas miracle materialized: Farro Risotto with Prosciutto, Parmesan and Brussels Sprouts.
This stuff is ridic. Farro’s nutty taste and satisfying chew provide the perfect hearty base for savory prosciutto and earthy, sautéed Brussels sprouts. Like Arborio rice, farro contains a starch that releases a binding liquid when cooked, making it fabulously creamy without any actual cream. (Fun fact: Farro cooked like risotto is called “farrotto.”) Adding a little bit of lemon zest at the end brightens the whole thing up and gives the dish a delicious, yet subtle, citrus flavor. It’s dreamy. I thought Logan was going to cry.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with farro, let’s take a hot second to discuss its wonders. Farro is an unhybridized, or pure form of wheat that is considered the oldest cultivated grain in the world. It’s absurdly high in fiber and rich in cyanogenic glucosides, which sound scary but actually stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol. Farro also contains more protein than most whole grains, and it’s packed with B vitamins, antioxidants, and essential minerals such as manganese and zinc. Boom. Since we’re talking about health, I feel obligated to inform you that although farro is low in gluten, it is not gluten-free. (Never fear glutards! You can easily sub in Arborio rice in the recipe.)
The tricky thing about farro is that there are multiple varieties. It can come whole/unpearled, semi-pearled (semi-perlato), or pearled (perlato). These distinctions refer to how much of the exterior bran and germ have been removed from the grain itself. More confusing still is the fact that some farro labeled “whole” is actually semi-pearled. WHY GOD, WHY?! Don’t panic. The best way to distinguish types of farro is simply to look at the cooking time stated on the package. If it says 15 minutes or less, it’s pearled. 30 minutes? Semi-pearled. 50 minutes or longer means it’s whole. Ideally, you want to use semi-pearled farro for this risotto, but don’t freak out if you realize you’ve bought and/or started cooking a different variety (yours truly accidentally used whole). All three types will work fine.
Based on the previously mentioned health benefits of farro, this incredibly decadent risotto is actually surprisingly healthy. Everyone knows Brussels sprouts are packed with glorious nutrients, and each serving of risotto only has about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and less than an ounce of prosciutto. Oh, and there’s no butter involved, friends, just heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil. Hark the herald angels sing.
I know that some of you are intimidated by the idea of making risotto, both of the traditional and farro varieties. Don’t be. After you make it once, you’ll realize it’s actually pretty simple. You mostly just add ingredients to a saucepan and stir every few minutes. Yes, you do need to be in the kitchen the whole 45 or so minutes that it takes to cook your risotto, but is that really so bad? Bring a friend, have a cocktail or seven, take domestic selfies, or sing Christmas songs. Making this risotto is also an excellent excuse to hide in the kitchen if you happen to need a little “alone time” this holiday season. Just saying.
Farro Risotto with Prosciutto, Parmesan and Brussels Sprouts: (Serves 2 generously as a main course or 4 generously as a side)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
12 Brussels sprouts, washed and quartered
1 pinch salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1¼ cups semi-pearled farro (or arborio rice)
½ cup dry white wine
4½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 ounces prosciutto, diced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Preparing your Farro Risotto with Prosciutto, Parmesan and Brussels Sprouts:
-Start with the Brussels sprouts. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. When hot add the Brussels sprouts.
-Add the crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt to the sprouts and cook, stirring periodically, for about 15 minutes until lightly browned and tender. Set aside while you cook the farro. (To save time, you can also cook your Brussels sprouts at the same time as the farro, but I know some of you get stressed when I ask you to do two things at once.)
-Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Add the shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes until they become translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.
-Once the wine is absorbed, pour 1 cup of the warm stock to the pan, so that the farro is just covered with liquid.
-Cook gently (the liquid should be just simmering), stirring periodically, until the stock is almost completely absorbed. Repeat this process, adding stock ½ cup at a time until the farro is al dente (aka just tender).
As always, I’m thrilled to be a part of Food Network’s Fall Fest this week. For more fabulous holiday sides, check out the amazing blogs below.
Feed Me Phoebe: Stir-Fried Collard Greens with Ginger and Jalapeno
The Heritage Cook: Sweet & Lightly Spicy Corn Pudding
The Lemon Bowl: Sweet Potato and Corn Hash
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Clean Eating Holiday Side Dish Recipes
Weelicious: Cranberry Apple Chutney
Dishing: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Spices
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Cranberry-Pistachio Pilaf
Taste with the Eyes: Fresh Green Beans, Mexican-Style
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Italian Green Beans with Tomatoes and Pesto
Red or Green? Green Chile Pork Stew and Tamales
Virtually Homemade: Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate
The Sensitive Epicure: Butter Dipped Radishes with Sea Salt
Daily*Dishin: Best Holiday Dressing
FN Dish: No-Brainer Holiday Sides