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Any Ashkenasi Jewish chowhounds make farfel the way my family does?

Farfel (or the way my grandmother said it, "farfele") is a major staple in my mother's extended family. But, when I look around for recipes on the internet (just out of curiosity), I don't ever see the technique that we used to cook it, which has been passed down from at least my great-grandmother, if not from even further back. We don't just cook it and drain it. Instead we chuck some butter or oil in the pot, then brown the farfele in it, stirring constantly until at least half of it is brown. Then we add water (usually about two parts to one part farfele), salt, cover the pot and let it simmer until all the water is absorbed--no draining necessary. It's like cooking rice.

It's absolutely amazing this way! We kids were obsessed with it and my grandmother used to make giant pots of it for us. I got a few boyfriends hooked on it and they had to learn how to make it, and it's always a huge hit with kids. Does anyone else make farfel(e) this way? Or is this just something that some ancestor came up with independently and the rest is history? (I do seem to remember eating it like this when I was in Hungary--where my great grandmother was from--as a child but it was so long ago I can't entirely remember.)

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  1. I make Israeli couscous that way. However, the way I make Israeli couscous is essentially the same as farfel. I saute up a bunch of mushrooms and onions, add the couscous and stir until it browns lightly, pour in broth, cover, and simmer.

    This is basically just a simple pilaf and you can treat most grains this way. Tastes an awful lot better than just plain boiling, doesn't it.

    1. I've never heard of farfel, but it sounds good. Is it storebought, or do you make the dough yourself?

      1 Reply
      1. re: jvanderh

        Once in a great while, my grandmother would make it from scratch by making a stiff egg noodle dough and chopping it fine with a knife. But usually we just bought it. It's just a small pellet shaped egg noodle. Manichewitz makes it and sells it as "egg barley." But, to us, it's not really farfele unless it's cooked with the browning and simmering technique above. "Farfele" is as much about the technique as it is about the actual noodle used as far as we're concerned. (If you can't find a suitable egg noodle, you can use Italian acini di pepe and follow the same technique. It's a pretty good substitute.) It's great served under stews and as a side dish and it's kind of an addictive snack.

      2. This is also done in Spain for FideuĂ  A Banda and other Noodle dishes. As well as Mexico
        Lidia Bastianich also did a dish like this from Slovenia/N.E.Italy

        1. My family prepared it a little differently. We boiled it al dente, drained it, and then browned it in butter and/or schmaltz. Salt and pepper and that's it. Mom (who is Sephardi and Ashkenazi, but most of her cooking is way more Ashkenazi influenced) would sometimes do the first step, the boiling, in chicken stock before draining it.

          As a child, I was never a fan of farfel, but now that your post prompted my memory, I may have to try it again as an adult. Thanks!

          3 Replies
          1. re: team_cake

            Your welcome. :-) And, yes, try it again! I think it's divine. Maybe try both methods and see which one you like best? The advantage I see to browning it before cooking it is that you can get it really nice and brown without drying it all out. In college, my mom used to send me bags of the stuff and I'd make big pots of it for my hall mates. It was universally loved.

            1. re: Lady_Tenar

              My great-grandmother prepared farfel very similar, by browning the farfel first, but like Team_cake, started with either butter or schmaltz, depending on the meal....with schmaltz she used chicken soup, a can of mushrooms, and a can of carrots...and drained at the end...and of course the soup was saved.

              1. re: PHREDDY

                It got me thinking....if there was some leftover, she would toss it in a fry pan with some yellow onions and a couple of eggs...yes sort of a fritatta....but how do you say that in Yiddish?

          2. I must try this method. My mother-in-law made the most wonderfully fluffy farfel. I think she constantly stirred while it simmered until the water was absorbed. Unfortunately my attempts have always turned out like paste.

            1. I make it the same way, although I has never used butter.

              1. My family background is also Hungarian (Miskolc and Satmar) and my family makes it the way you describe. Instead of water, we use either chicken or beef stock, depending upon which meat it will be served with.

                I just posted on the Kosher board that I am having a very hard time finding farfel in my kosher stores here in Central Ohio.

                I am about to start asking for Chowhounds to mail me some, it's getting bad! I really don't want to start making the farfel from scratch.

                Rocky, I had to laugh because one of the stock helpers at the market told me no one buys farfel anymore, they all just use Israeli couscou. Not the same!

                4 Replies
                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  Diane...Try this for Aron Streit....you can purchase on line...

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    I was wondering how to make it. I'm gluten free, but pretty good at adapting stuff if I have something to work from. Is it actually made from barley?

                    1. re: jvanderh

                      not too sure, but you might want to check some of the manufactures and see what they have to say.

                    2. My family recipe calls for browning chopped onion in butter then adding chicken or vegetable stock, bring to boil and add the farfel, simmer covered until all the liquid is absorbed. Growing up my mother called it barley, I thought that's what barley was until I reached college and my wife (then girlfriend) explained the difference. She thought it was hysterical.

                      1. My Mom made it this way too. She would toast the egg farfel in butter on the stove top, add sauteed onions, mushrooms and celery, and beef stock. Then she would either bake it or make it like rice on the stove. Talk about comfort food! I am making it for Rosh Hashana.

                        1. That's how we mAke it except we use chicken stock for meat meals, veg for dairy meals, never water.