Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The girl with the pearl barley

If you've been following the blog for awhile, you may have the impression that I have somewhat unethical views on what can (or even should) be combined in terms of ingredients. And I'm always fiddling. I like the challenge of adapting recipes, pulling a general flavor profile from one or two or five recipes, seeing what I have on hand, and going from there. There are occasional culinary casualties, but in general things turn out well enough....

As I tried to unwind from an afternoon of waiting in various lines -- first at the pharmacy, then the grocery store (for ONE ingredient, and let me tell you those folks in the 12-items-or-less line were certainly 12-degrees-less-than-cheerful) -- and clear out a few things that would not be coming with me to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, I had risotto on the brain. Part of this was due to some recipes I'd been perusing in the post-errand-running late afternoon, including a lovely sounding butternut squash risotto recipe with mascarpone and roasted sage. But I had no arborio rice. Or mascarpone. Or enough sage. Or any chicken stock in the freezer. Or white wine. And I would be darned if I was going to face those lines at Giant again. Oh, but I was seriously craving risotto. I started rummaging around the cupboards and refrigerator to see what I had to work with. Some fresh parsley. Okay, that's something. Dried mushrooms, shallots, garlic. A bunch of beets. Some -- wooh! -- fermenting apple cider. A bit of parmesan in the fridge, some beet stock in the freezer. Okay. This could be something, but I still had my heart set on risotto. Just then I noticed a bag of pearled barley stuffed on the top shelf in the back of the pantry.... Hmmm....

I'd tried a version of risotto using something other than arborio rice once before. It was a recipe using brown jasmine rice and some Louisiana shrimp on my way through New Orleans last May. Delicious, but not really risotto. My friend Nathan suggested I call it a pilaf, but it wasn't really. An etouffee? No, not quite right either. Pseudotto? Anyway. Tonight beet and barley pseudo-risotto made it onto my dinner plate. And you know what, it was pretty tasty. In fact, bowl number 2 is steaming right next to me as I type. If only I had a nice, chilled glass of Pinot Grigio to wash it down. And a dinner companion. (Everyone's already left town. Except for the 17 people in front of me in line and the dozens of others mobbing the registers at the grocery store earlier today, obviously.)

The Girl with the Pearl Barley Risotto

Heat 1T olive oil + 2 T butter in a medium pot.

Add in 3 diced shallots + 3 cloves of minced garlic and sauté until soft.

Add ½ t sea salt + 1 cup pearled barley and stir until barley is coated.

Stir in ½ cup fermented apple cider and simmer until most liquid has been absorbed.

In ½-cup increments, add 3 cups of stock (I used 1 ½ cups mushroom stock + 1 ½ cups vegetable stock), letting the barley absorb most of the liquid before adding the next dose, but stirring frequently – just like regular risotto – so the grains don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. It should be done in 30-40 minutes.

At the end I added in some chopped dried mushrooms (well, they weren’t dry any more: I’d soaked a handful in 1 ½ cups of boiling water to make stock) + 2T or so of whole milk + about 2T grated parmesan.

Scoop risotto onto plates (2 large or 4 small portions) and garnish with a handful of chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan.

I topped my barley risotto with beets -- partly because I had some around, partly because I am determined to introduce more people to beets through flavorful and not overly complicated recipes. (Me, I make borscht from scratch for fun, but I know it's not for everyone.)

If you want to replicate the dish with beets, first remove greens (for use another time) and scrub 2-3 beets in cool water. Chop into bite-sized pieces and sauté in a small saucepan with a bit of olive oil and butter for a few minutes. Add a pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and 1 or 2 T of vegetable stock. Simmer on low until tender -- about 20 minutes. (It worked out that they finished just as the risotto was ready. How nice.)

I suspect this recipe would also work well with butternut squash. I really must try that other, real risotto recipe when I get my hands on some arborio....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment! Just making sure this isn't spam.... Thanks for your patience. :)Ibti