When life in the office gets too stressful, sometimes retreating to the safety of the local Jewish deli for the lunch hour is necessary. In the past week, my coworker Eryn and I needed an escape desperately. While she responsibly took some work files to look over, I acted as entertainment. The February issue of Bon Appetit, themed “Savor the South,” is my favorite magazine in ages. Obviously, my Southern roots gives me a bias but this issue is pretty awesome.
In the middle of pretty much reading the magazine out loud, I spied a recipe for Dirty Farro, an awesome twist on dirty rice. Except when I mentioned the recipe to Eryn, she heard it as “dirty pharaoh” and in the state of our stress-induced delirium, “dirty pharaoh” has become contagious. Between our new catchphrase, my existing crush on the Bon Appetit issue and the February vintage recipe swap’s wild rice recipe, inspiration was all-encompassing.
While pondering my creation, I found freekeh tucked away in the depths of my pantry. What is freekeh, you might ask? It’s a spelt berry that is picked while green and then smoked. In my youth, I have eaten many servings of the Arabic freekeh, which was the what my dad’s family called a grain and meat stew. Not until I moved to New York and saw freekeh at the farmer’s market did I realized that’s the name of the grain, not just the dish.
After a year of being intimidated by the little smoked grain sitting in my cabinets, I took the plunge with sausage and chicken livers, the holy trinity of mirepoix and some smoky spices. I imagine adding a little more liquid, egg and bread crumbs could create a fantastic dressing more similar to our Vintage Recipe Swap, but I love a grain side dish that resembles a salad more than a casserole. The chicken livers add depth with their earthy flavor, the cured chorizo creates a little chewy, spicy texture, the mirepoix is a great base, and the freekeh gets just tender enough, with still a little bite. The freshness of the celery leaves and parsley folded in at the end is lovely.
If tracking down freekeh isn't your thing, farro, spelt or wheat berries, brown rice or wild rice could all work. A larger, heartier grain gives the dish more texture and body than something like quinoa or white rice.
- 2 cups freekeh
- 2.5 cups [20 ounces] water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bullion cube [optional]
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 pound chicken livers, trimmed, chopped
- 4 ounces cured, dried chorizo, chopped into small pieces
- 1 1/2 cups diced onions [about 1 large onion]
- 3/4 cups diced carrots [about 2 carrots]
- 3/4 cups diced celery [about 2 stalks]
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic [about 4 cloves]
- 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 cup [8 ounces] water
- 1/2 cup celery leaves, choppd
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- Cook the freekeh. Place the freekeh, water, bay leaves and bullion cube [if using] in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, uncover and cook for 30-45 minutes. You want the freekeh [or whatever grain used] al dente, so that it is edible but a little bit chewy. It will cook more later.
- Reserve the freekeh in a bowl and use the same pot. On medium heat, add the oil, chopped liver and chorizo to the pan. Let cook for 5 minutes, letting the chorizo brown and the liver cook.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, Worchestershire sauce, five spice, allspice, garam masala, turmeric and red pepper flakes and a pinch of kosher salt to the pot. Let saute for five more minutes, unti the vegetables soften.
- Add the water, scraping up the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Bring to a simmer and lower to medium-low [keeping a steady, not rolling, simmer]. Cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half.
- Stir in the freekeh and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and the freekeh is tender. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- Once tender, stir in the celery leaves and parsley. Taste. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Enjoy!