So the night I was to head across town from my photo shoot to try Sprig’s dish for the Colombo Marsala recipe contest, it was pretty dismal. The drizzle started as soon as we got in the car and just as I parked my car, the skies opened up. Not just rain – monsooning sideways sheets of rain. Roof clattering humongous drops that sounded like hail…and then there was actual hail. My friend Erin, who made the trip with me, sat at the bar and just looked at each other. Drench and bedraggled – not just from the rain but a really tough shoot day – we both had the look on our face that said “I hope this was worth it”.
There had been some amazing dishes in the competition up to that point and the choice was already tough. Really beautiful and complex, composed dishes with lots of well executed components and sauces. I’d been eating well, that’s for sure. Then at Sprig…this small little bowl of what looked like risotto came out and it was sort of shocking in its…simplicity. Nutty farro mixed with Colombo Marsala (both kinds, which was a pretty bold move) and a smattering of spinach and Porcini mushrooms. Served as an appetizer that night, we both dug into our dishes and looked at each other…and then sighed. It was heavenly. Earthy. Comforting. Balanced. Hearty but not gut-bomb filling. Three bites in, I was already throwing out the line “I’m totally making this at home”…and I have. Several times. So many times that I think I need an intervention. I’m kidding…kind of.
Sprig’s Farro Marsala won my heart that night, as well as the hearts of many of the restaurant’s fans. Not only did I choose it as my winner for the Complimenti del Cuoco but it was also voted Diner’s Choice. This dish is so flavorful and rich and deep – I can’t wait to hear if any of you out there try it. Chef Neff’s recipe that is posted on the Colombo challenge site is a very short & concise recipe – I’ve posted the changes that I’ve made to the procedure here in this post so no one is surprised by some longer cook times. You could also leave out the butter and the cheese garnish at the end and make it safe for those that don’t eat dairy.
– In a small bowl, combine dried Porcini mushrooms and 1/2 cup Colombo Dry Marsala wine. Allow them to soak until reconstituted and tender. I like to do this about 30 minutes before I start the farro so they really take on some of the Marsala taste. Set aside.
– Combine farro and vegetable stock in 6 qt. saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling boil for two minutes, cover and simmer on very low heat until liquid is absorbed – for me, this takes about 20-25 minutes. You may have to add extra stock or water to the pot while the farro is cooking before it gets tender – do this in 1/2 cup increments until cooked through. The original recipe says the farro cooks in 10 minutes – this is if the base farro has been pre-cooked & only needs to absorb the stock.
– Combine reconstituted Porcinis along with their liquid, ½ cup Colombo Sweet Marsala, shallots and garlic in sauté pan on med-high heat and reduce by half. Remove from heat. Add in one tbsp. cold butter and allow to melt. Combine spinach, farro and porcini mixture together. Fold in until spinach is wilted. Garnish with diced red pepper and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional).