Farro is a whole grain that has been getting a lot of attention in the foodie world of late. It's prized for its nutty flavor, delicate chew, and versatility. Many cooks shy away from it because of its long cooking time, but if you use semi-pearled farro (in which some of the bran has been removed), it speeds up cooking considerably. If I had to describe the taste of farro, I'd have to say it comes close to barley, but it is milder. When I found a recipe that relied on the slow cooker to produce this risotto-like dish, I knew I had to try it. I did, however, feel the need to make some changes to the recipe. While it may be convenient to toss everything into the slow cooker "raw" and forget about it, I don't like grey meat and vegetables. It's worth using a skillet to develop some flavor before turning things over to the slow cooker. Here's my revised recipe:
Serves 4 - 6
2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup semi-pearled farro
1 lb button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, carefully cleaned, halved, and sliced
1 piece of Parmesan rind plus 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces (plus 1 tbs for sauteeing vegetables)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Melt 1 tbs unsalted butter in a large nonstick skillet and slowly brown the mushrooms, 5-7 minutes. Add the sliced leeks and cook for another 5 minutes.
Mix chicken broth, farro, 1 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, bay leaf, and pinch of nutmeg in slow cooker. Add sauteed mushrooms and leeks and mix well. Place chicken thighs on top and cook on slow for 5-6 hours. (or on high for 3 - 4 hours)
Discard the rind and the bay leaf and use 2 forks to shred the chicken into large pieces. Stir in the butter and grated cheese. Sprinkle each serving with the chopped parsley.
I enjoyed the flavors in this dish, but was surprised that the farro had none of the "bite" usually associated with risotto. I would think the cooking time could be reduced by an hour, though the chicken was just perfect after 6 hours. Farro is far healthier than rice so I would make this dish again.