Here's a secret straight from the chef of Beast, one of Portland's most carnivorous restaurants: In her her "real life, Naomi Pomeroy doesn't eat a whole lot of meat. A regular shopper at the market on Saturday mornings, Naomi is passionate about fresh, local ingredients, and claims that, while the "meat kind of just does its thing," the vegetables can certainly steal the spotlight. "It's when you put the two together," Naomi said with a smile, "that's where the alchemy is."
She certainly focused on the veggies this morning during one of the rowdier Chef in the Market demos I've ever hosted, whipping up a farro risotto with wild porcinis from Springwater and shelled peas from Viridian Farms. We chatted about her recent James Beard nomination, her ironic attraction to the foie gras protesters outside her restaurant, her naughty revelations in the Portland Mercury's food and sex issue, the awesome time she had shooting Iron Chef America, and her plans for a classy viewing party for the (currently unannounced) airing of the show. She even hinted that she'd love to start her own high-end vegetarian restaurant in town, which would certainly be news-worthy. If any region could support a fully vegetarian menu year-round, it's definitely our little corner of the Pacific Northwest.
Try your hand at some beast-less Beast cooking with this recipe, and come check out the rest of the season's star-studded lineup of Portland chefs in the middle of the PSU farmers' market, every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. See you there!
Beast Farro Risotto with English Peas and Wild Mushrooms
1 cup farro (You may also substitute another starchy grain, such as carnaroli rice, aborio rice, or wheat berry.)
8 cups simmering water (The grain chosen determines the amount of liquid used. You may not use all 8 cups)
1 cup dry white wine
4 oz farm fresh butter
2 sprigs thyme
½ cup spring onions, chopped
3 cups cleaned wild mushrooms – sliced and cleaned (Porcinis are the best, but any variety will be great!)
3 cups shelled English peas
6 oz mascarpone cheese or crème fraiche
3 oz grated parmesan or other hard pungent cheese
1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add the mushrooms, and cook them until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a short stockpot or something with high sides, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the spring onion and sauté until translucent. Season with salt and pepper, and add the picked thyme.
3. To the stockpot, add the farro and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook the farro until it starts to brown slightly. Turn the heat down to medium, add the white wine, and stir constantly until all the wine is absorbed.
4. Add the hot water one ladle at a time, allowing the grain to completely absorb the liquid each time.
5. When the grain is almost tender, add the raw peas, cooked porcini, and the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
* For make ahead preparation, follow steps 1-3. Spread the grain out on a shallow pan to allow quick cooling and to stop the farro from further cooking. When you are ready, melt a little more butter, add the farro, and continue with steps 4 and 5.