Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pearl Barley Risotto

I've wanted to make risotto with pearl barley ever since I read about the technique. I can't quite remember where I stumbled onto this suggestion, maybe Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook? In any event, it had been on my short list of must-try dishes.

Since I've largely abandoned refined grains (aside from the occasional slice of pizza or wedge of yummy cake), I've missed risotto. Yes, I've made it more than a few times with short-grain brown rice, but the reason I haven't put it together more often is one in the same as the thing that kills me about whole-grain risotto. It takes SO frickin' long! With arborio rice, you're stirring, tops, 25 minutes. With short-grain brown rice or pearl barley, you're stuck by the stove for (perhaps over) 60 minutes!

The recipe I used from Eating Well lied and said it would only take me 35-45 minutes. HA! Thanks to another epiphany/kitchen hint from Mark Bittman, I knew constant stirring is not necessary for risotto. He recommends the heat at a rather high temperature and not to leave the risotto unstirred more than a minute. In this manner, I was able to take lots of mini-breaks from stirring. Thank you, Mr. Bittman.

Though it took more than an hour to reach al dente (mis en place plus one hour cooking time), it was a success, taste-wise. The mushrooms, red wine, and arugula gave this a very rich and woodsy flavor. I would recommend this recipe, but make sure to do it on a night with lots of time to spend in the kitchen. Even better, make it with a friend and chat away while you take turns stirring.

Pearl Barley Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Arugula
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 t. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups mixed wild mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1/2 cup red wine
6 cups baby arugula
1 T. butter
1/3 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
2 t. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat stock and water to a simmer on the stovetop.

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook until they begin to give up their liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in pearl barley and stir constantly, 1 minute, to coat with oil. Add wine and stir until liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring very frequently until liquid has mostly been absorbed. Be sure that you stir often enough that the risotto will not scorch on the bottom of the pan. Keep heat at medium to medium-high. Cook barley until al dente (you may not use all the liquid, but I did). Stir in arugula until wilted. Add butter, cheese, and vinegar. Season to taste.


Jessie Mae said...

You can do spelt risotto pretty much the same way as barley risotto. It's a popular part of a lot of meals at my house.

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