Farro & Italian Greens Stuffing

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Making the stuffing a day ahead gives it a chance to come into its prime. Serve hot or at room temperature.

This is far beyond your usual stuffing; this is a "jewel-in-the-crown" dish, worthy of stardom. We’re channeling old-time Italian country food with nut-like farro, buttery pine nuts, the savoriness of crisped pancetta and heaps of garlicky, spicy greens finished with lemon and raisins. You could almost forget the turkey.

In fact, if you skip the pancetta and chicken stock in the greens, you have a lovely main dish for the vegans in the crowd. Each element of this dish can be cooked ahead, then you assemble and bake the casserole a day in advance so all that’s left to do is heat it in the oven when you pull out the turkey for its rest.

Cook to Cook: Farro is an ancient wheat still popular in central Italy. You’ll find it in specialty shops and online at sites like chefshop.com and splendidtable.publicradio.org/store. Wheat berries or barley can take farro’s place.

Freezing the pancetta before chopping makes it much easier to chop.

Ingredients

Farro:
  • About 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cups farro, wheat berries, or pearled barley 

Greens:

  • 1/4 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for sautéing and oiling the baking dish
  • 1 whole head garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 whole dried mild to hot red chiles, or 1 to 2 teaspoons ground red chile
  • 4 bunches (about 6 pounds) Swiss chard, or a combination of greens (kales, collards, mustard greens, or sturdy lettuces), washed, stripped from their ribs (reserve any chard ribs), and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup Cheater’s Homemade Broth (recipe follows), canned chicken or vegetable broth or water

Finishing:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 inch-thick slice of pancetta (about 4 ounces), finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • Grated zest of 2 large lemons, plus more to taste

Cheater's Homemade Broth:

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed (leave unpeeled if organic)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 canned tomato
  • 1 bay leaf, broken
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 3 cans (14-ounces each) low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium to large onion, coarse chopped (if organic, trim away root, but leave skin)
  • 1/2 large celery stalk with leaves, coarse chopped
  • 1/2 medium carrot, coarse chopped (leave unpeeled if organic)
Instructions

1. Up to 5 days before serving, make the farro: In a 6-quart pot bring about 4 quarts of water and the 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Drop in the farro. Simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender yet still somewhat firm to the bite (the grain will open up a bit in cooking). Drain and set aside. Cooked farro can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days ahead.

2. If using Swiss chard, mince the reserved stems.

3. To make the greens, generously film the bottom of a large, deep Dutch oven or pot with a tight-fitting lid with the 1/4 cup of the olive oil and heat over medium high. Add the garlic, minced chard stems if using, and the whole chiles. Sauté them very briefly, no more than 2 minutes. (If using chile powder, sauté about 1 minute or until fragrant.)

4. Add the broth, and then the greens in handfuls as room becomes available in the pot.

5. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook the greens for 20 minutes or until they are tender. Check occasionally to make sure the greens are not burning, adding more liquid if needed. Sturdier greens like kale may take 5 to 10 minutes longer.

6. Remove the whole chiles, if desired, and taste the greens for seasoning. Set them aside until you’re ready to mix them with the farro. Drain the greens before using. The cooked greens can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days.

7. To finish the stuffing, lightly film the bottom of a 12-inch skillet with olive oil. Heat it over medium-high heat, and add the pancetta and bay leaves and generous amounts of black pepper and sauté 5 minutes, or until the pancetta begins to render and soften.

8. Add the onion, and continue to cook until the onions have softened and begin to turn golden, lowering heat if necessary to make certain not to burn the glaze on the bottom of the pan.

9. When the onions are tender, stir in the cooked farro, the pine nuts, raisins and lemon zest until well combined. Gently fold in the drained greens making sure they are equally distributed. If the pieces of greens are too large, chop them into finer pieces before adding to the farro.

10. Transfer the stuffing into a large, 3-quart or so, lightly oiled casserole and cover with foil. Stuffing can be refrigerated, covered, at this point until an hour before serving, or first baked at 350º F for 30 minutes, cooled and refrigerated overnight.

11. To make ahead and heat for serving, take the stuffing out of the refrigerator about 90 minutes before serving. To heat it through, bake in a 350º F oven for 30 minutes.

Cheater's Homemade Broth


5 minutes prep time; 30 minutes stove time. Makes about 4 cups; doubles and triples easily. The broth keeps 4 days refrigerated and 6 months frozen.

Every flavor-boosting trick we know goes into this recipe to turn canned mediocrity into liquid gold. There are garlic, aromatic vegetables and herbs, and most important of all, wine and tomatoes, two umami superstars. Umami is the chemical component that heightens flavors and makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Cook to Cook: One of the overlooked bonuses of cooking with organic vegetables is that you get to use the whole vegetable, peels and all, without worrying about questionable elements.

For instance, an onion’s skin is literally and culinarily pure gold. A good example is this broth, where the organic onion is simply rinsed, the root trimmed away and the rest put in the pot. That skin turns the broth tawny gold and lends an edge of flavor.

Instructions:

1. In a 4-quart pot, combine all the ingredients. Bring them up to a simmer, partially cover, and cook 30 minutes.

2. Strain the broth into a bowl or a storage container. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Prep time: 
40 minutes
Cook time: 
About 50 minutes
Total time: 
1 1/2 hour
Yield: 
Serves 12 to 15

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