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Recipe: Farrotto With Apples, Sausage And Walnuts

By Susan Simon

We who are fortunate to live tucked away in this spectacular corner of the world are the recipients of an apple harvest to end all others. New York State (I know, apples grow in Massachusetts and Connecticut, too) is second only to Washington State in apple production. However, I’d like to think that East Coast growers who do a particularly good job raising traditional apple varieties like McIntosh, and Red and Golden Delicious have done an amazing job bringing heirloom varieties like Jonathan and Northern Spy back to the bins. Additionally, forward-thinking farmers have closely watched Cornell University’s apple breeding program and experimented with their hybrids like Snapdragon® — which boasts Honeycrisp as a relative — to lip-smacking good results.

I’m always searching for ways to combine apples with savory food. While apple pies, cobblers, crisps and crumbles are not only irresistible desserts and just the right dish to serve with afternoon tea, they also fill your home with heady aromas as they bake. 

Apples have the same effect in savory applications. Their sturdy flesh can stand up to slow cooking methods. Diced, slightly sweet apples complement a pork loin as it’s braised in milk, tart apples add further spark to a spicy chicken curry, and Thanksgiving turkey dressing is poor without apples. You can cook apples with cabbage to serve as a side dish, dip apple slices in fondue, and make apple chutney and relishes.

The chilly air is the best appetizer for warm and hearty food. This farrotto, made like a risotto topped with a belly-pleasing combination of apples, sausage and walnuts, will be just what you want for dinner when the temperature slides down.

Farro, the Italian word for a grain that’s sometimes mistakenly called spelt or even wheatberries, is actually emmer in English. Because it’s a hulled wheat, farro absorbs liquid in the same way as rice. However, the grain is a bit thicker than rice so it absorbs slightly more liquid than rice does. I make a little more broth than I may actually use for the dish.

I like to turn the flavoring ingredients into toppings that can be combined with the farro by the individual diners as desired.

Farrotto with Apples, Sausage and Walnuts
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 full sprig fresh thyme
1 onion, finely chopped
7 cups water
1 cup dry white vermouth
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups farro

2 large sweet-tart apples such as Empire or Idared cut into ¼-inch pieces
4 links sweet Italian-style sausage, about ¾ pound, removed from their casings
½ cup chopped walnuts

Optional garnish: grated Parmesan cheese, fresh thyme sprigs

1. Make the broth: melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and thyme sprig. Sauté the onions until they begin to caramelize, about 8 -10 minutes. Add the water, vermouth and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and simmer until reduced by 1 cup.

2. Make the farrotto: in a large saucepan over medium heat on a burner near the broth, melt 1 tablespoon butter in 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the butter sizzles add the farro and toss to let the grains toast — dry out.  Add the warm broth 2 ladlefuls at a time. Stir to keep the farro from sticking to the bottom. Keep adding the broth 2 ladlefuls at a time until the farro is tender, but still slightly chewy — about 20 minutes.

3. Make the topping while you’re making the farrotto: in a skillet over medium heat add the crumbled sausage and stir until sausage is cooked and releases as much of its fat as possible (the sausage that I buy from a local farmer is almost fat free). Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl. Add the apples to the same skillet and stir until the apples brown. Add up to ½ cup of the leftover broth and remove the apples to a bowl. Stir in the walnuts and place the mixture in the skillet to heat to serve. You may want to further loosen the topping with the remaining broth.

To serve: place the farrotto on a large serving platter or individual shallow bowls or plates. Add the topping. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme sprigs.

Susan Simon is the author of a James Beard award-winning book and a shopping guide to Marrakech, and has translated a culinary guide to Italy. She writes a weekly food column for the Hudson-Greene Media Group. She also writes the What We Eat Now series for Nantucket Today magazine. She lives in Hudson, NY.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/13/15 at 11:48 AM • Permalink