Although a new recipe in my repertoire, this casserole has managed to earn its place on my short list of Thanksgiving musts and traditions. With its roasted cranberries and squash nestled against wilted kale and plump farro, the casserole is not only striking--maroon, emerald and a soft shade of pumpkin orange, or as I like to call it, fall on a plate--but it also layers competing flavors and textures in a way that can only help to elevate the meal. It's the ideal companion for the turkey; that is, if it doesn't manage to steal the show itself. —dusty516
Preheat the oven to 400 F, butter a medium-sized casserole dish and set aside. Then, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine the drained farro and the water or broth. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.
Cover the pan and let cook for 50-60 minutes. The farro is ready when it has plumped up and softened, yet retains a somewhat chewy texture. The farro won't absorb all of the liquid, so be sure to drain off the excess.
While the farro is cooking, halve and seed the squash, then cut it into half moons. Quarter the larger half moon slices into small cubes and cut the smaller ones into thirds. Spread the cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the squash and lightly toss to coat.
Place the cranberries in a small bowl and add salt, pepper and brown sugar. Stir, then add the olive oil and toss to coat. Spread the prepared cranberries out on the other parchment-lined baking sheet.
Put the two baking sheets in the oven (cranberries on top rack, squash on the bottom) and let the cranberries roast for 20 minutes. Remove the cranberries from the oven, then toss the squash and leave it roast for another 10 minutes.
While the squash and cranberries are roasting, soak the kale for a few minutes in a large bowl filled with cold water and 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar. Massage the kale, softening it and helping to remove any insects that have latched onto the leaves. Drain the kale and, if necessary, soak and drain again. Using a salad spinner, dry the kale.
Heat a large frying pan (preferably cast iron) on medium heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom and add the kale. Saute for five minutes or until the kale has wilted and become tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
After roasting the cranberries and squash, toast the walnuts in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for a few minutes and then roughly chop and divide into two even piles.
Place the cooked farro in the grated casserole dish and add the cranberries, squash, kale and walnuts. Stir to combine, then sprinkle in half of the chopped walnuts. Stir again. Now that the casserole is assembled, turn to the Béchamel.
Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it melts. Once the butter is sizzling, add the shallot and chopped sage and cook until the shallot has softened and become translucent. Add the flour, stirring it in with a wooden spoon. It will become a smooth paste. Over low heat, slowly whisk in the milk, adding a little at a time. The sauce will gradually become thicker. Once fully thickened, remove from heat and sprinkle in both the nutmeg and salt and pepper, then, stir in the grated cheese until it fully melts into the sauce.
Pour the Béchamel over the assembled casserole and top with the remaining chopped walnuts.
Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes and cook until the sauce is bubbling.