Let’s just put it out there: winter 2013 was total wash. My brain went through a huge creative hibernation. While some lovely savory and sweet items happened, most of my cooking just felt “meh.” Now the good news is that with slightly warmer temperatures and more sunlight, my brain is feeling better. Experimenting in the kitchen has felt more inspiring and words are actually forming on the page.
Just in time for my brain renewal is a challenge: take an awesome grain and make it even more inspiring. Tuscan Fields farro is offering a scholarship to Eat Write Retreat. I’ve heard some fabulous things about the Eat Write Retreat conference from friends, so I jumped at the chance.
The story of pineapple cashew fried farro isn’t too complicated. Basically, two of my favorite cuisines are Thai and Korean and I wanted to see if farro would play nicely with different flavors. The flavors chosen are a mix of what lives in my pantry and what I like. Unlike rice, farro is hearty and really holds up to double cooking. It absorbs flavors of the sauces and aromatics and doesn’t turn into a mushy mess.
Pineapple cashew fried farro also epitomizes that winter to spring transition in my kitchen. The flavors are warm, rich, luscious and bright, spicy and acidic. The gojuchang, a Korean hot pepper paste made with fermented soybeans, creates a depth and spice without overwhelming your palate with heat. The roasted duck and fresh pineapple both have a unique sweetness. And unlike the mediocre restaurants that still add wimpy parsley to your plate, the garnishes are absolutely key. The last bit of fish sauce along with the brightness of the scallions and herbaceous cilantro accentuate all the cooked-in notes of the fried farro. The final dish is way more interesting and delicious, trust me on that.
Regarding the protein choice for this stir-fry: I realize it is an indulgent choice. If you’re not interested in roasting duck legs just for fried farro, store-bought confit duck legs are a mighty fine option. Pre-cooked pulled pork would also be a tasty substitution. Or use whatever protein best for your budget and taste buds.
Just a little note about the fish sauce. Yes, that is a lot of fish sauce. If you're a little fearful of it, use 1/2 tablespoon. If you appreciate a little savory funkiness to your fried rice, go with the full tablespoon.
- 1 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3.5 oz (about 1/2 medium) yellow onion, medium dice
- 1.5 heaping tablespoons of gojuchang
- 6 oz cooked duck
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, medium dice
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 5.25 oz (about 1 cup) ½-inch cubes of fresh pineapple
- 2 cups cold cooked farro
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce, separated
- 1.33 oz (1/3 cup) whole cashews, toasted
- large handful chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 lime
- Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion dice; stir until soft and almost translucent. About two minutes into cooking, add the gojuchang. Stir the onions around and let the mixture cook for at least five more minutes.
- Add the duck, bell peppers and garlic to the pan.
- Add the rice, pineapple and cashews to the pan, followed by 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Stir to heat everything through and get the seasoning to coat the rice. Let the mixture cook for at least five minutes - you want all the flavors to make there way into the farro.
- Remove from heat. Stir in the scallions, cilantro and an additional 1/2-1 tablespoon of fish sauce (see note above). Plate up and serve with additional cilantro, scallions, crushed cashews and lime wedges.