Forcing Spring

by Marina Chotzinoff

“Go home Colorado, you’re drunk” is a common phrase making the rounds these days. Slurring, telling the same old stories over and over, falling asleep mid-sentence, Denver in springtime is a mess. After what seems like a fairly boring, but long winter decorated in dead grass and bare trees we experience a schizophrenic frenzy of promising warmth and t-shirts followed by a foot of snow. Usually on the same day. Packing for my kid’s day at school requires layers of short sleeves, long sleeves, two pairs of socks, snow pants, gloves and boots. I have photos in May of our old swimming pool steaming as the snow falls two days before our outdoor wedding. It is what it is, but yesterday I was just ready for plain old spring. So I decided to cook it.

My sister is in town and we were both craving some fish. There was some lovely arctic char which I have eaten but never cooked so we selected a fillet and considered what we might serve it with. I originally wanted peas or favas but decided on the way to the produce section that what I really wanted was something that did not involve shelling, peeling, blanching and so on. So we grabbed a pile of sugar snaps and a bundle of asparagus and swooped back around to the meat counter for some bacon. Remembering the artichoke stew I made a while back which Food52 so beautifully made and photographed, I decided to do something similar.

I first rendered the bacon, removed it to a plate and browned some shallots and garlic in some of the fat. I added some farro along with broth and water, sautéed the asparagus and sugar snaps and threw in some jarred artichoke hearts I had in the pantry. For the fish I just added salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and good olive oil topping it with lemon slices and thyme. I broiled it for about 8 minutes. It was rich and flavorful and a promising combination for getting through these last few weeks of crazy.

Serves 4
4 pieces bacon, chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup farro
3 cups liquid (mix broth/water)
1 bunch asparagus, peeled, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 pound sugar snaps, strings removed
6 artichoke hearts, quartered
1 large fillet arctic char (trout works well too)
lemon slices
red pepper flakes
good olive oil

Heat broiler. Brown bacon in a dutch oven or medium pot slowly, remove to a plate. Pour off all but a couple tablespoons bacon fat and cook shallots and garlic until just starting to brown. Add farro and toast a few minutes then add bacon and broth, cover and simmer about 20 minutes. Cook asparagus and sugar snaps in a pan using some of the bacon fat or olive oil until crisp tender. Fold veggies and artichokes into farro mixture.

Salt and pepper fish, drizzle with olive oil, add red pepper flakes, lemon slices and thyme. Broil about 8-10 minutes.

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