. . . may bring flowers, but for us they also bring the greening of tall French Mediterranean wheat and first plantings of Henry Moore heirloom corn. They bring our Carolina Gold rice up high in the fields, and mist the first benne plots tucked deep in the South Carolina woods. They bring ancient emmer.
Apropos ancient emmer, we’re pleased to release a new member of the Anson Mills family of emmer. Farro medio, the medium-sized powerhouse of Italian staple-grain culture and one of the holy trilogy that includes farro piccolo and farro grande, dates to the earliest records of domesticated farming in the West. The impact of farro medio on Italian bread, pasta, and pilaf forms can be tracked directly to its first appearance in the fields. We celebrate the nutty and mineral flavors of this new crop with a spring pilaf-style recipe below.
Spring enticed us to create three additional recipes, each built upon one within our existing larder, so to speak. Normally, adaptations of this kind represent less rigor than those begun from scratch. But not this time. As it happened, each foundation recipe needed to go back to cooking school for a quick refresher. So we revised, parting ways with elements here and there, and followed a shorter path to the new, improved identity of each. Check out the new adventures of old cuisines below, and then join us on a culinary tour of their spring spin-offs. Each of these recipes has a technique for producing crisp surface planes against soft, creamy centers. Each crop we reference above appears as a central or supporting flavor in one of them, too.
Out with the old, in with the new. It must be spring.
A click on each image will take you to its recipe.
Farro Medio with Butter-Poached Leeks and Morels
This lovely recipe was reverse engineered from Glenn’s farro pilaf idea where all elements cook start to finish in the same vessel, the ancient way. But the farro’s cook time eliminated any possibility of meaningful synchronicity between the grain, allium, and fungi. Now the farro, put to simmer in stock infused with leek and morel essence, cooks wistfully on its own, while the two remaining early stars of spring enjoy gentle butter baths. We fold the leeks into the finished farro, and let the mushrooms play along the edges. A beautiful compromise.
Fresh Whole Hominy
Our original hominy recipe takes 5½ hours. Our new recipe takes the same. But the new method produces much better hominy, which makes the production of masa easier. Here’s what happened: up went the lime to water ratio in the pot, which promoted an earlier interaction between lime and corn and persuaded the kernels to nixtamalize sooner and more evenly. The final hand-wash of fresh hominy is now dependably uniform and streamlined. Off went the pesky brown nibs. What you get: beautiful fresh, bright hominy corn flavors with appealingly even al dente texture that retains the germ in every kernel, which is where fresh sweet corn flavors go to hide.
We shrank monster huaraches down to a civilized plate size for the ultimate crisp-to-creamy tension. Oh, and they’re made with homemade masa, not the instant stuff from the bag. Masa slippers with rich refried beans sandwiched between get griddled up, hot and crackling. They’re dressed on the plate with a flourish of melted queso fresco, shredded lettuce, grated cotija cheese, and a splash of fresh salsa verde.
We were pretty thrilled after going our first round with kimchi. But on second take, we sensed the recipe could pro it up some. Out went the carrots—too intrusive, too sweet. Out went the green plum extract. Out went the dripping Asian pear. In came a touch of tart green apple. Up went the brilliantly colored and complexly flavored gochugaru. In slipped some chopped raw oysters. This new kimchi has a certain muscularity—it doesn’t purr, it roars. It makes our kimchi pancakes sing with bright dimensions.
Even those who, like my husband, Glenn, cannot bear the intermittent ambient aroma of fermenting kimchi, and enjoy kimchi only as the smallest possible flavor accent to be visited on a side dish, love these pancakes. They have the requisite crispness any pancake craves, and just enough gooeyness to bind the semi-crunch of the kimchi and the bounce of chopped shrimp. Made with our rice and bread flours that temper the kimchi’s sharpness while allowing its heat and ferment flavors to come through, these pancakes reveal long, long back-action flavor—the gustatory equivalent of a dog barking in the distance.
We revisited our recipe on the way to making French toast and found it wanting in strength. Out went the romantic-sounding cake flour. Up went the eggs. We discarded procedural fussiness and brought in a simpler shape. What remains: a sturdy, moist brioche with a soft, open crumb and the extraordinary flavors wrought when Anson Mills French Mediterranean Bread Flour, butter, a small amount of yeast, and two long, slow rises trigger exquisite fermentation flavors and a uniquely flavorful crust.
Brioche French Toast
Great French toast shares some of the same virtues we treasure in a great bread pudding: crusty soft extremities and a custardy center. Not dry, not soggy, not eggy—light and suffused with thrilling pockets of soft shiny baked custard. This French toast goes one better with its three-dimensional crispness. We cut the slices thickly and brown them on every surface. A sprinkle of sugar on the soaked bread before it hits the pan helps makes the magic happen.