Thursday, March 14, 2019

Baked Farro Casserole

Baked Farro Casserole is filled with chicken thighs, beet greens, tomatoes and dried hedgehog mushrooms. Perfect comfort food for the cold and dreary days,

One of my favourite things to whip up for Mom's lunches during the week is the one-dish wonder. As a student, it simplifies the meal prep process since I get carbs, veggies and protein all in one without extra prep time, and for her it makes for easier eating between all her activities as a busy grandma! Casseroles are also a fantastic opportunity to use up all the leftover bits and pieces lying around the kitchen and in the freezer - so although I'm giving you a "recipe", it is truly more of a guideline than anything else.

The original inspiration for this casserole came from Veganomicon via Diannes Vegan Kitchen and, if you couldn't already guess, was a vegan recipe that I picked because mom has recently discovered (and fallen in love with) farro and was looking for ways to utilize the earthy, healthy whole grain. However, we also had a couple chicken thighs sitting in the fridge from the weekend (after dinner invitees had to cancel) and a container of homemade chicken stock as well as homegrown beet greens in the freezer. Pawing through the pantry I found dried hedgehog mushrooms (my favourite kind) and a handful of red lentils. The fridge yielded a red pepper and a carrot that were looking somewhat sad, so they found their way in too. All the extra ingredients required extra liquid, so I used a second (smaller) can of tomatoes that I drained along with the undrained big can already called for.

The whole process from the initial saute to when I lifted the dishes (I only had two shallow ones at the time) out of the oven smelled like heaven - herbs, veggies, roasting grains and chickeny aromas abounded. Even my year-old neice was intrigued, and while she didn't get a taste test this time around, I'm sure she'll eventually convince one of us to give her a bowl too!

Baked Farro Casserole
Serves 8
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced 
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, shredded 
2 cups uncooked farro 
1 cup red lentils
1 bay leaf
10 oz. frozen beet greens (or spinach), thawed and squeezed dry 
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used homemade)
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 (15 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained 
1/2 oz dried wild mushrooms (I used hedgehog
2 tsp paprika 
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a deep casserole or baking dish.
  2. In a deep frying pan, heat half the oil and add the chicken thighs. Brown all over and remove to a bowl.
  3. Add remaining oil and add the onion, garlic, pepper and carrot. Saute until the vegetables are beginning to soften. 
  4. Stir in the farro and lentils just to coat with the oil mixture.
  5. Transfer to the casserole dish along with the bay leaf, beet greens, broth, tomatoes, mushrooms, paprika, herbs, salt, pepper, parsley and nutritional yeast. Mix well and smooth the top.
  6. Cover the dish and bake for about 50 minutes, until the farro and lentils are tender. 
  7. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes, until brown and slightly crisp on top.
  8. There may be a little liquid left over, this is fine (especially if you're planning on leftovers!)

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