Batter Licker

November 21, 2011

turkey dripping pear farrotto

About four years ago, my aunt offered to pack up the Thanksgiving turkey’s carcass in a trash bag for me to haul home to San Francisco. I crinkled my nose in response. Why would I take that nasty thing with me on the 4+ hour drive home, especially when my largest pot was no more than 4 quarts?

Last year, I hosted Thanksgiving in my tiny, one-bedroom apartment and had finally acquired a sizable stock pot. Entirely different story. The next morning, I broke down the carcass a little, and shoved it into the giant pot with some water, leftover onion ends and herbs to simmer for a few hours. After straining out all the odds and ends, I froze a third of the stock in ice cube trays for smaller uses and the rest in 2-cup tupperware for soups and other bulk uses.

The most awesome part? I had stock for months. And all because I threw some turkey bones and onion end pieces into a pot on a day that I otherwise spent watching movies, enjoying a roaring fire and playing games.

Even more awesome part? After using some of the turkey drippings for Turkey Day gravy, I froze the rest in cubes and used those as “stock starters” once I ran out out actual stock. Just dissolved a few frozen drippings cubes in hot water and magical flavor resulted.

The lesson I learned was to save and freeze (in reasonably small portions) all those seemingly yucky byproducts of turkey roasting. It saved me a ton of money and prep time for several months’ worth of future meals, and cost only minimal time to preserve the drippings and stock since I froze it all almost immediately. (more…)

January 23, 2011

mixed greens, chopped peanuts, farro and fruit salad with spicy banana-cilantro dressing

This salad has it all: protein and healthy fats from peanuts, fiber and protein from farro, various other nutrients from fresh mixed greens and fresh or dried fruit, and a whole lot of flavor from these healthy ingredients and the spicy-sweet dressing. And yes, I did put farro, the mother of all whole grains with a nuttier flavor and chewier texture than rice, in a salad.

I’ve praised the merits of farro before in a risotto-style dish, but this time around, you can blame my trip to Italy three years ago, where we stopped at a locals-only cafe that had an entire menu dedicated to salads that contained a large scoop of rice. While rice isn’t exactly what carb-avoiding salad-eaters are going for, it did add a great, chewy texture and some heartiness to salads that might otherwise leave you yearning for a carbalicious snack just a couple hours later. As a whole grain full of protein and fiber, farro achieves a longer-term fullness and isn’t exactly the same type of refined, carbohydrate-heavy grain as the white rice we’re now told to avoid.

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I love the contrasting textures in this salad – soft crunch from the greens, a hard crunch from the peanuts, chewiness from the farro, and (if you take my tip to not use dried sour cherries, which weren’t tangy enough to stand up to the spicy sweetness of the dressing, and to use tangerines, tangelos, or even grapefruit instead) the juicy explosion from fresh citrus.

The flavors were all incorporated to accommodate the banana, jalapeno, and cilantro flavors from the dressing. Peanuts pair exceedingly well with bananas, but also with the Thai-inspired cilantro, jalapeno, and ginger flavors. Nutty farro provides some savory, subdued relief from the sweetness of the banana and the spiciness of the jalapeno, and incorporating some purple lettuces provides a great bitter contrast to the banana’s sweetness. If you use a tangy, fresh citrus fruit, it will cut the creamy sweetness of the banana nicely. (more…)

October 19, 2010

farrotto with mushrooms, chard, garlic, and ginger

Cold weather is creeping back into San Francisco after a glorious month and a half of summer weather. To me, that means it’s time for warm, comforting dishes like risotto.

I especially love risotto because it tastes naughtier than it is. Although it looks and tastes incredibly creamy, risotto doesn’t contain any cream. Usually, the only high-fat ingredient I add is cheese, and even then, I don’t add much. Plus, without anyone noticing (ahem, Jay!), I can almost double the recipe’s output by adding tons of vegetables. As far as I see it, the only downside of risotto is the constant stirring.

But constant stirring is a double black diamond, super steep downside, probably covered with ice and moguls. It’s no gentle, downward sloping bunny hill. There’s no denying it: standing in your kitchen for 35+ minutes, stirring every minute or so, then adding broth every few minutes is downright laborious. And incredibly boring. It often makes me wish my rice cooker had a risotto-cooking mode.

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Enter my knight in shining armor: farro. (more…)

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