Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bacon Faro

I debated with myself whether or not I should add the word “risotto” to the end of this recipe’s name. Though the end result is undeniably risotto-like, the method is not strictly a risotto method, and so, I don’t think it quite deserves the title. But what’s in a name, right? This is a delicious recipe I created that would work equally well as a side or a main course. I was inspired by the bacon-infused faro I sampled off a friend’s plate at Anchovies & Olives recently, as well as the quarter pound of bacon that I needed to finish up. It was all in all one of those look through the refrigerator, find a bunch of stuff that needed to be consumed, and throw it in there-type situations. So, I’d encourage you to get creative and do the same if you find a number of half-finished items in your fridge, like the cup of chicken stock, one half of an onion, and almost empty bottle of wine I found in mine.
 I started by chopping up the bacon and rendering the fat over low heat until it crisped up. You could keep all that beautiful, bubbly, golden fat in the pan, but I chose to pour some of it off, because a quarter pound of bacon does render a quite a bit of fat. Next, I added half a diced onion, and let that sweat for a bit. Then, some garlic and red pepper flakes.

At this point, I added the faro, and stirred it to get each grain covered with fat and distributed evenly throughout the rest of the ingredients. Then, in went about a half cup of wine, which I stirred until it had almost completely reduced and been absorbed. Up until this point, my technique was very much a risotto technique: sweat some primary ingredients, stir in the grain and get it coated in fat, and then add a small amount of liquid. Here, though, is where I departed from a risotto method. I did not painstakingly stir in a little liquid at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed, before adding more, and standing over the pot the whole time, ensuring that each grain was cooked evenly. Nope, I decided to keep things simple, and I threw in the rest of the liquid (I used a combination of chicken stock and water), brought it up to a simmer, covered the pot, and let it cook away.
To finish the dish, I went back to my risotto roots again. Once the faro had been cooked through, I stirred in some butter and parmesan, giving the dish just a touch more richness to complete it. Also, it’s worth noting, I used a little bit more liquid than I needed to cook the faro through, so that there was still some liquid left that had become thick with starch and rich from absorbing all the wonderful flavours in the pot.
What I was left with was a very risotto-like faro dish tasting of bacon, and a hint of garlic and spice. I made it as a side-dish, but it would be more than substantial enough as the main component of your dinner. I ate it with a feeling that I had made a great discovery, some well-hidden secret that Italian chefs don’t want you to know: you can make something that looks, tastes, and acts a lot like risotto with about half the effort. Who knew?

Bacon Faro
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main course

¼ lb. bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup faro
½ cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups chicken stock (or a combination of stock and water, or just water)
1 tbsp. butter
½ cup finely grated parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook it, stirring it occasionally, until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is very crispy. Pour excess fat from the pan until about 2 tablespoons remain. Increase the burner to medium, and add the onion; sweat it until it is soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute.

Increase the heat slightly, and then stir in the wine. Let the wine simmer away until it has reduced and has been almost fully absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in the stock, water, or stock and water combination. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and reduce heat to low. Cook until the faro has been completely cooked through, about 45 to 50 minutes.

When faro has been cooked to the desired tenderness, turn off the heat, and stir in the butter and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.