Farro Bacon Wild Rice Cake

Tossing onions in the Bennett's kitchen.
Most weeks, I share a recipe adapted from what we served the previous week at Bennett's. I love spending time in their kitchen, but I don't often get a chance to talk about how much I also enjoy working with the kitchen staff at the Pasta & Co.'s.

This recipe was served at Bennett's over the weekend, but the dish was all built around the awesome texture and flavor of this outside-the-box wild rice cake we developed for the deli case at Pasta & Co.

It's important to bake them just right, because the crisped outside and soft inside is a great contrast that makes it really versatile. They make a healthy snack on their own, or you can combine them with greens and protein for a well-rounded meal.



Farro Bacon Wild Rice Cake

Makes 7-8
3-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 package Blue Bird Farms Potlatch Pilaf (1.18 lb. bag)
1 tsp. kosher salt (if necessary)

6 oz. uncured bacon
1/2 red onion

1 egg
1 Tbsp. Maximus/Minimus seasoning blend (available at Pasta & Co.)
1/2 tsp. thyme
1-1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

4 oz Flagship cheese, very coarsely shredded or crumbled
1/3 cup chopped, fresh, flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot (if unsalted add the kosher salt). Stir in the farro mix, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the grains should be al dente. Remove from heat and decant into a bowl. Chill.

While the farro is cooking, using a food processor, process the bacon to a fine dice and then transfer to a medium saucepan. Mince the onion in the food processor.
Over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally to render the fat, about 10 minutes.  The bacon should be brown. Add the red onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Remove from the heat and chill.

Combine the cooled farro and bacon mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, Maximus/Minimus Seasoning Blend, thyme, vinegar, pepper, and salt. Add the farro mixture to the bowl and, with your hand, thoroughly mix the farro and egg mixtures. Gently fold in the cheese and parsley.

Using a ring mold (or your hands), form the mixture into uniform cakes approximately 1-inch tall and 3-inches across. Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until nicely browned. Let the cakes sit for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan.

At Bennett's, we served it with grilled King salmon, braised fennel and tomato broth.

Try out the recipe and please comment below on what you served with it!
Let me take a moment to say: I really, REALLY love fennel.
We braised them simply with some salt, lemon juice
and olive oil at 375 for about an hour and they were A-MAZ-ING.

"Mac in Action" in Rwanda

Here we are, folks! Here's the video I promised of the ad hoc process of making Mac & Cheese in Rwanda. It wasn't easy and there were a couple points when I thought it wasn't going to turn out, but everyone seemed pretty happy with the result. It made me really happy to honor the rest of the crew by making a meal for them.

Enjoy!

Beecher's Mac Africa and Cheese

On our last day in Rwanda I got the big treat of making lunch for the 50 man crew working to build the St Ignatious school.  When we were working there we really enjoyed the workers. It was classic mime communication as of course we knew no Kinyarwandan and only a few of them knew even a little English. Despite the language barrier we grew to really appreciate them and the hard work they performed for $1.50 per day.

Beecher's Mac and Cheese and Maximus/Minimus braised pork was the menu.  Rwandans really only eat rice and beans so many of the workers had never tasted pasta.  They were very curious as I showed up and packed my supplies into the fire shed where the lunch cooking is done.  Word spread that the Americans were here to cook.  The two ladies who did the cooking were quite helpful in teaching me, again pretty much just with mime, how to cook on an open fire on a dirt floor in a shed with no chimney. 

In the end it was actually a reasonable facsimile of the real Beecher's Mac. There were certainly many times during the process that the outcome was in doubt, but they all loved the finished product and the plates were clean.

At one point the fellow with the best English asked me how much this meal would cost in America.  A mix of appreciation for our western situation and shame arose in me as I realized that it would be over a week of wages simply for him to buy this meal that I had prepared.

Stay tuned for a video of the Mac & Cheese making process!

Also, if you haven't gotten a chance to the other posts, just click on the rwanda tag below to display all of them.

Genocide

Geno, or race, combined with Cide, Or killing.  The term was coined in 1954 to categorize mass killings based on ethnicity. It was in response to the holocaust  in Germany which killed over 6 million but has been applied to several tragedies in the last century.  

The 1994 genocide is always just below the surface when you are in Rwanda. Visibly, there are memorials all throughout the country where the dead in that area have been reburied.   Less visibly though is that the racial hatred that caused it in the first place is not gone.  How could it be?  Less than a generation ago the 80 percent majority Hutus killed almost a million of the minority Tutsis.  And did so mostly in really brutal machete attacks on men, women and children right in the open.  They were earnestly trying to exterminate the Tutsis.  The only thing that stopped the killing was the Tutsi rebel army which invaded. 

Today the country is trying very hard to overcome the tragedy and the hatred that spawned it.  The government is officially mixed.   A very large number of genocidaires have been brought to justice in war crimes trials. And no one, Tutsi or Hutu that we met openly talked of anything other than that the only option was forgiveness. 
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