Omnivore - Get in Ma Mouth: Dirty Farro Edition

A recipe from One Eared Stag chef Robert Phalen

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A few weeks back, in the middle of an excellent all-around meal with friends at One Eared Stag in Inman Park, one dish stood out for its intensity and bold flavor. It was called “dirty farro,” a fairly straightforward play on dirty rice, the Cajun staple that typically earns its dirt through bits of chicken liver or giblets and plenty of spice. At One Eared Stag, chef Robert Phalen’s version elevates this classic with chewy, nutty farro in place of the rice, a heavy helping of high quality pastured chicken liver, and a tangle of beet greens to provide a pleasant (and healthy) bitterness. To pretty it up, he tops it off with a sprinkle of - what else - pretty little edible flowers.

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The depth of flavor in this dish belies its simplicity - a grain dish at heart, with a bit of onion and garlic and pepper to spice things up. The secret ingredient, of course, is the chicken liver, which gets pureed before going into the pan, providing both richness and a silky texture around the farro when it’s done.

“We had a bunch of liver leftover from a party, so we thought why not?” Phalen explained. “The dish really only has 4 to 5 components, with the liver being key. We mix in some greens depending on what’s fresh - we’ve been using a lot of beets in the kitchen, so it’s the greens of the beets that have ended up in the dish lately.”
Everyone at the table couldn’t get enough of the dirty farro’s peppery, deep funk. It didn’t hurt that we had a nice 40-year-old Rioja to drink with it, an earthy, funky wine in its own rite.

After the meal, I asked Phalen how much longer the dish might remain on the menu. Unsurprisingly, he said it was on its way out. It’s rare that any dish lasts more than a few weeks on Phalen’s menu, let alone months. He tweaks it constantly to reflect the seasons. As the days have gotten longer and warmer as of late, bright, light ingredients like English peas and fava beans have come in, leaving heavier dishes like the dirty farro behind in the dusty memories of winter. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have Phalen’s dirty farro, or at least an approximation of it. The chef was kind enough to provide us with a recipe.

Chef Robert Phalen’s Dirty Farro

1 cup farro
3 cups water
½ onion
1 carrot, cut in half
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 stalk of knob onion, sliced
1/2 cup pastured chicken liver, pureed
Salt to taste
1 handful of beet greens, torn into pieces (Any bitter green will do - turnip, nettle, chard, etc.)
Cracked black pepper

Rinse farro then combine with water, onion, carrot, and celery in a pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer until grain begins to burst open, about 15 minutes. Drain and cool. Discard the onion, carrot, and celery. In a hot sauté pan, melt the butter with the garlic and knob onion for 1 minute over medium heat. Add the liver, season with salt. Cook for 5 minutes until almost cooked through. Add farro to pan. Salt to taste, then mix well until ingredients are fully incorporated. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, letting the farro fry slightly. Right before you serve, add the black pepper and the greens to just wilt them.