Sunday, February 19, 2012

Red Wine Farro Risotto and Earned Moments

It came out without thinking.

"No, I don't!" I'd said, a snarl tangled into my voice.

I hadn't meant it to sound so rude, but his intrusion came during one of the most sacred moments of my day. Post-work, post-Bar Method, post-dinner... me time. Which directly translates to mean "couch time." The reward for all the frantic emailing, huffing, puffing, and quinoa-ing. The time when I get to be lazy and anti-social and the opposite of everything I am when I'm not shellacked to the couch.

In other words, one of my favorite times of day.

"Excuse me, excuse me," He'd shouted through the crack of my front window.

I'd ignored the mysterious shouter at first, not thinking he could possibly be talking to me. I continued to sip my rooibos tea, brewed to the perfect hot, but not scorching temperature. I continued licking my chocolate covered chocolate ice cream bon bon like I was trying to see how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. I continued focusing my attention on willing Kat and Nick to just get together already on "The New Girl."

You know, engaging in very important activities that required all of my energy.

"Excuse me," He'd said again, clearly not content to be ignored in favor of two fictional television characters.

"What?" I'd finally snapped, startling even myself with the violent tone ribboning through my response.

"Do you have a bottle opener?" He'd asked.

"No." I'd declared without hesitation. "I don't."

As soon as the words had tumbled out of my chocolate-stained lips, I'd felt guilty. Of course, I had a bottle opener. I had at least 5 or 6 bottle openers acquired from various events and swag bags and well-meaning friends over the years. At any other time of day I would have gladly assisted the poor openerless bloke in his mission of consuming wine -- even if it was likely something of the Two Buck Chuck nature. I would have ignored such egregiousness and smiled and told him to keep the opener. I would have told him to have a nice day or night or life.

And would have sincerely meant it.

Instead, I transformed from a mostly sweet, generous and socially engaged person, to the younger, female version of Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace. I was moments away from screaming obscenities at the nonexistent children playing in front of my apartment for disturbing my nonexistent azalias.

"How dare he intrude on my chocolate/tea/TV time?" I'd thought. "How dare he taint the single moment of my day that is purposeless and entirely for my selfish consumption?"

Those moments of relief, like the release of a breath I don't even realize I'm holding, are the little lights at the end of a tunnel. Earned from all the hard work and focus and intensive people-pleasing of the day, they are inherently valuable. Priceless. The more I accomplish in the office, the more I push myself during Bar Method, the more time I spend chopping and dicing my dinner, the more I value that half hour or hour of chocolate-eating, tea-drinking nothingness.

This recipe for red wine farro risotto is like that - a sweet and fleeting reward that is all the more valuable because of the work that goes into it. The roasting of butternut squash, the methodically stirring, the constant attention to ensure the liquid to grain ratio is always just so. It's a process; a tunnel. And the end product -- sultry, comforting, luxurious, yet still possessed by humbleness -- briefly pauses time with that first bite.

It's reason enough to invest in a bottle opener -- and a bottle of wine of the non-Two Buck Chuck nature.

Red Wine Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash and Seared Scallops
Serves 4

Notes: This recipe in inspired by my older brother who prepared a traditional red wine risotto with arborio rice and shallots when we were all in town at my parents' house for Thanksgiving last year. I had initially turned up my nose at the risotto in favor of some kale and quinoa nonsense (typical), but when I snuck a bite of my mom's serving, I was instantly smitten. My version is made with farro instead of arborio rice, and includes butternut squash and scallops to make it more of a substantial meal, but the flavor profile still reminds me of that first exquisite bite of my brother's impromptu dinner. Feel free to change it up as you see fit, but I like the contrast of the delicate scallops to the hearty grain of farro, and find the sweetness of the butternut squash is a lovely companion for the red wine.

1 1/4-lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4-5 shallots, minced (approximately 1 cup)
1 heaping cup of farro, rinsed
12 large fresh scallops
4-5 cups chicken broth
1 cup + 2 tablespoons red wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper then roast, stirring once, for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Remove and set aside.

In a large sauce pan, bring chicken broth and 1 cup red wine to a slow boil. Reduce heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a tablespoon olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent and just starting to caramelize, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add the farro and cook for another 5 minutes or so until lightly browned on all sides. Reduce the heat, add the last two tablespoons of red wine to "deglaze" the pan. Once the liquid has cooked off, start by adding 3/4 cup of broth/wine to the pan and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently. Season with thyme, freshly ground pepper. Continue adding broth/wine as needed.

When the farro is tender, but still somewhat toothsome, add the butternut squash and heat through. Add additional broth/wine as needed. Stir in the parmesan cheese and serve immediately, topped with seared scallops.

For Scallops:

While risotto is cooking rinse scallops and pat dry. Line a plate with paper towels and place the scallops on the towels. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit for a good 20-30 minutes like this.

Heat large nonstick or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Place half the scallops into the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Let cook undisturbed for a good 2-3 minutes without touching them to get a good sear. Turn and cook for another 2 minutes.


Gastronomer said...

This dish looks mighty fancy, D! And "me time" is sacred. I don't blame you for lying to those folks one bit ;-)

Banana Wonder said...

You make me want to eat chocolate, drink tea and watch TV...and MAYBE make some red wine (non 2 buck chuck) risotto :P