thanksgiving table: farro-mushroom stuffing

Can I let you in on a secret?  I’m oh so happy to be done with Halloween. It’s not that I have a thing against ghosts and goblins, but once it’s passed I no longer have to feel guilty about dreaming of Christmas. I’m a full on Christmas freak. I’m the obnoxious person that usually has her presents done early [and wrapped], listens to White Christmas in July, and wears holiday bloomers year round. More than you ever wanted to know about me, I’m sure ;]

So I've been planning these next two months for quite some time with bottled enthusiasm. And now I’m going to slowly let it ooze out and you’re going to see every bit of it! For the month of November all of my food related posts are going to be dishes that can be used for the Thanksgiving feast! This is going to be cathartic for me because I’m on call this Thanksgiving and since I have to be able to get to work fast, I won’t be able to join my family that lives 30 minutes away. Boo. 

Cue the sad music. But I’m okay with it because I get Christmas off and I keep reminding myself of that. So this whole month of cooking will by my own kind of Thanksgiving and a fun way to get all of those flavors that trigger warm memories out of my head and into my mouth! 

Also: I don’t necessarily do typical foods. Although I like turkey and mashed potatoes as much as the next gal, I like to mix it up and experiment. I like to take the usual flavors and do something fun with them. Since I’m as picky as a five year old, I've found it’s a great way to trick myself into trying new things. Here’s a dish I made last year that went over well. I made it as an alternative to stuffing and my vegetarian uncle had seconds [and took a doggie bag home] so I consider it a success. Although it’s all whole-grainy and veggie packed, it’s flavor packed as well. Get ready for some sexy veggieness.

Sorry. I couldn't help myself. 

I originally got this recipe from Cooking Light and have played with it over time. I’m going to show you pretty much how they did it [while giving you alternatives]. It starts with faro- a grain that’s similar to barley. How healthy and filling! I think this dish is super earthy and hearty. It’s a good base for a turkey leg if you ask me.

In one small pot, boil water and add dehydrated mushrooms. The original recipe calls for porcini but I had shiitake is what I could find so I went with it. You bring it to a boil, move from heat with lid, and let set for 30 minutes. Since this is kind of labor intensive, I don’t consider it necessary. The first time, I just added extra mushrooms to my dish and used chicken stock [you can use vegetable] as a substitute so you still get more flavor than if you just used water.

Meanwhile, have your husband/significant other/roommate/ bestie cut up a yellow onion for you. If they refuse, remind them how delicious this dish will be. Sautee with olive oil at medium for about five minutes, then reduce heat to low and let it get all sweet and caramelized. Read: 30 minutes. Don’t rush it. Trust. Near the end, add a dollop of butter. See? My contributions to this dish matter. 

Then add the farro to the pan, coating it in the onion-buttery sauce you’ve made. I always do this in cases of rice. I feel like it soaks up the goodness before you add the fluid.
Then add the strained ‘shroom juice. Cut up the mushrooms that were in the fluid and add to dish. Bring to a boil and cover. Then lower and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add oil to another pan [I know, another pan! That’s why I offered up the stock idea]. Add more mushrooms, celery, thyme, and sage. The recipe called for shiitake. I’m a rule breaker. I used button  mushrooms and creminis [baby portabellas].

Get everyone all hot and bothered [that’s six minutes for those of you who weren’t sure] and then add half a cup of dry white wine. Because there’s no better excuse for drinking while cooking; even if it is only 2 in the afternoon. “Honey, I’m cooking!”

Let them get saucy [3 minutes]. Remove from heat. Once the water has evaporated from the onion-farro mixture, remove him from heat. Mix the two. Oh yeah. It’s like a ‘shroom party. But not the kind from the 60’s.

Now I’m afraid I’m going to lose you here but hear me out. This is a yummy dish. Pour all that goodness  into a 11x7 baking dish. This is actually good. Now is a great time to transport or whatever you need to do. Then you just pop that sucker in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and you’re done. Sprinkle with those leftover celery leaves that no one ever uses and you’ll be the talk of the town [the good kind of talk]. Who does she think she is anyways?

Confession: these pictures were taken before the toasty oven ending. A natural-light needing amateur photographer has to do what she has to do. Forgive and forget. But know you’re farro will end up looking a little dryer and browner after the run in the oven. Meaning, it’ll look better than this. I never knew I could write so much about farro.

In total unrelated news: I have received my YHL book early. Consider this your notice of my early hibernation.

Farro Stuffing:

3 cups boiling water
½ c dried porcini mushrooms [beggars cant be choosers though]
2 T olive oil
2 ½ c finely chopped onion
1 ½ c uncooked farro
6 c or 12 oz mushrooms
1 c finely chopped celery
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1 T chopped fresh sage
½ c dry white wine
celery leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Combine water and dried mushrooms. Bring to boil. Cover. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes.

Heat 1 T olive oil in pan, add onion and sauté 2 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once brown and delightful, add a dash of butter, then the farro. Stir. Add reserved mushroom fluid, strained. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer while covered, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. In another skillet, heat remaining oil. Add mushrooms, celery, herbs. Saute six minutes. Add wine and cook additional three minutes or until no more fluid remains.
Mix farro with celery mixture. Add to 11x7 pan and cover. Add to preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. 

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