Mornings are brighter, sunsets are later and, in spite of the rash of snowstorms, I like to think of this time of year as the "home stretch". Within a couple of weeks we'll be turning our clocks ahead in anticipation of spring. Meanwhile, more hibernation is fine with me, especially when sharing the occasional good supper and glass of wine.
WARM FARRO AND CRANBERRY BEAN SALAD
This dish is full of good, healthy stuff. If you haven't tried farro, I urge you to do so as it's readily available in the supermarket. Farro is a toothsome, nutty grain that looks a bit like brown rice but has a much more interesting texture.
2 cups shelled fresh cranberry beans
2 cups farro
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized red onion, cut into small dice
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 head radicchio Trevisano, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
Bring a large saucepan of well salted water to a boil. Add the cranberry beans, let the water come back to a boil, and cook the beans for 10 to 12 minutes. Bite a few beans to make sure they are cooked through. With a slotted spoon, scoop the beans out of the water and set aside. Add the farro to the water, let it come back to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. Taste the farro to make sure it is cooked through (al dente). Drain and set aside.
Add the bacon to a large, wide pan, give it a little drizzle of oil and bring to a medium heat. When the bacon has exuded a lot of its fat and just begins to get crispy, add in the onions. Cook the onions with the bacon until soft and aromatic, 7 or 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked beans and farro to the pan and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock and pinch of red pepper flakes. Season with salt if needed. Cook until the chicken stock has reduced by about half, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the radicchio and chives and cook until radicchio is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm with some crusty bread on the side.
This bears little resemblance to a potato gratin - and has a personality all its own. It's very decadent and rich, so make sure you dine lightly and get some exercise on the day you plan to indulge.
1/2 cup finely minced onion
2 tablespoons canola oil
4-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
1/2 cup diced smoked ham steak
4 large eggs
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grated imported Gruyere or Swiss cheese, divided
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Good grinding of fresh black pepper
3 medium-large baking (russet) potatoes, peeled
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet, over medium-low heat, cook the onions slowly in the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter, for 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Raise heat slightly, stir in the diced ham and cook a minute longer. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the garlic, parsley, 2/3 cup of the grated cheese, the cream and seasonings. Blend in the ham and onions. Set aside.
Grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater (or use your food processor). In a kitchen towel, squeeze the potatoes, a few handfuls at a time, to remove moisture. Stir the shredded potatoes into the egg mixture. Correct seasoning, if necessary.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in an 11-or-12-inch flameproof baking dish. When foaming, pour in the potato and egg mixture. Dot with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter cut into pea-sized dots. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese.
Set in the upper third of the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Serve directly from the dish with a salad of bitter greens on the side and a chilled white wine of your choice.