This slow cooked dish is rich with the nutty flavor of Christmas Beans and Farro, and infused with aromatic vegetables and herbs. A perfect side dish for any winter dinner. Christmas Beans are a large lima-type bean with beautiful brown or purple splotches. You may substitute any other bean and adjust the cooking time as needed. You can vary the flavor by substituting your favorite fresh herb for the marjoram (oregano, thyme, winter savory, sage, etc.)
1 Cup dried Christmas Beans
1 Cup Emmer Farro
¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 large carrot, chopped small
1 large celery stalk, chopped small
1 ½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ Tb fresh chopped marjoram
1 Tb Dijon mustard
1 Tb cider vinegar
¾ Cup chicken broth, or reserved bean cooking liquid
1 ½ Cups fresh bread crumbs or panko
¾ Cup fresh grated parmesan or aged gouda
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
Place the beans and farro in a large bowl, add 4 cups of cold water, cover and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and farro in a large colander and place in a stock pot with 5 cups of cold water. *If you use filtered water here, you shouldn’t have to skim any scum from the surface of the water as the beans & grains cook. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 1 hour, until the beans are just tender. Drain the beans & farro over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. Any liquid you don’t use in this recipe, you can use in any soup or stew to depth and flavor.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While the beans & grains are cooking, chop the onion, carrot celery, garlic and marjoram. Heat a large pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let heat through for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery, along with ½ teaspoon of salt and a few good grindings of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and marjoram and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Turn the heat off and add the Dijon, vinegar, beans & farro, 1 teaspoon salt and ¾ cup stock or bean cooking liquid, stirring to combine.
In a separate bowl combine the bread crumbs, grated cheese, 1 Tb olive oil and fresh cracked pepper to taste. If you are the type of person who likes lots of crispy topping (you know who you are!) you can double the bread crumb topping and bake the gratin in a long shallow dish to maximize surface area. Pour the bean & farro mixture into a large dutch oven or gratin dish (or lasagna pan for the extra topping method). Coat evenly with the bread crumb mixture and place in the hot oven. Cook for 45 – 60 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the gratin is bubbling at the edges. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer if you like) before serving.