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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Barley Mushroom Risotto

Although making a satisfying traditional risotto is one of my greatest cooking struggles, this barley risotto can't fail. It's easy and delicious every time.  It does take a bit of hands-on stirring time but the results are very satisfying.  Epicurious has the original recipe.

Here's what you need:

4.5 cups chicken or beef stock (I used a combination. It's about 1.5 cartons)

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (these are white, cremini and shiitake), sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

First, warm your stock in a small pot over medium heat until just below a boil, then set it to low to keep it warm.  I am using packaged beef stock here but this is probably the last time I'll buy it after reading that packaged chicken stock is almost always much better in quality and flavour. Using chicken stock where it calls for beef won't make your dish taste like chicken, it'll just have better flavour.  

Next, melt the butter in a bit of oil in a large pan.  I like to use a bit of oil when I cook with butter because it keeps the butter from burning.  

Add in your chopped onions and sauté until softened and translucent.

Take a cup of pearl barley which is polished barley that cooks faster than other kinds.

Add the barley and thyme to your onions.  You can chop the thyme but I just add the full stems and remove them at the end.

Stir to coat the barley with butter.

And then add 2 cups of the warm stock and bring to a boil in the pan.  Reduce heat and simmer until stock is absorbed, about 5 minutes.  

Then keep adding and stirring in additional stock about 1/2 a cup at a time until all the stock is absorbed and the barley is tender.  This'll take about 45 minutes.

Eventually it'll look something like this.

Meanwhile, as the barley cooks, add some oil to a separate pan over high heat to cook the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms to the hot pan and brown for about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add minced garlic and cover and cook for about 5 more minutes until tender.  

By now your barley should have absorbed all the stock and should look like this.

Add the mushrooms and chopped parsley to the barley.

And stir to combine.

Serve the glossy, rich barley and mushrooms as a vegetarian main course (substitute vegetable stock) or as an accompaniment to roasted chicken. I served it with lamb sausage and green beans.  

This is a wonderful fall and winter dish.

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