Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 14th - Asparagus and Crimini Mushroom Barley Risotto

Barley is a great substitute for rice for a Risotto-like dish.  I know it is a contradiction in terms since Risotto actually implies rice.  In this sense, it refers to the cooking method and ingredients. We first saw a recipe in Peter Gordon's Vegetables cookbook with Butternut Squash.  We have made that one a few times.  Every once in a while when the plan is for a Risotto, we replace with Barley.  It takes slightly more liquid but nicely about the same cooking time.  There is no wine necessary for this dish but you could very easily add it.  We do not because the original did not.  The nice nuttiness of the Barley might not need it.  It has a great mouth-feel.  The Barley swells nicely but keeps it form for as far as I have pushed it.  I do tend to push it with the liquid because I like my Risotto slightly on the otherside of Al Dente but not mushy by any stretch.  It goes without saying but I'll say anyhoo, that Barley is a very healthy grain.  It is high in protein as well as aspects similar to Oat that helps with cholesteral which may slightly mitigate all the butter we use :^P.

Asparagus and Crimini Mushroom Barley Risotto

150 g Pearl Barley
1-1.5 l Vegetable or mild Fish stock (it's what we had on hand)
3 T butter
3-4 cloves Garlic
1 Shallot, minced
1 big bunch Asparagus (12-15 spear sized bunch)
12-14 Crimini (Brown) Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 t chopped fresh Oregano
1 t dried Basil
1/4-1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

In a large sautee pan (sloped sides), heat 1 T Olive Oil on medium high.  Trim the bottom of the Asparagus or snap near the bottom where they should naturally snap above the woody bits.  Cut in thirds.  Sautee briefly, maybe a minute or 2, until they go a super bright green but are still crisp.  Set aside on a plate.

Add another T or 1/2T Olive oil to the same pan.  Raise the heat slightly.  Sautee the mushrooms.  Spread them out as much as you can.  Do not move them too much.  Let them brown.  If you crowd them or move them too much they'll start to stick or steam.  When nicely browned after 3-4 minutes, set aside with the Asparagus.

In the same pan on medium heat, add 1/2 T olive oil and a smidge of butter.  Add the Shallot Barley and Garlic.  Sautee utnil the Shallot is softened and the Barley is glistening.

Add the stock, as you would a Rice Risotto, one ladle at a time until mostly absorbed.  It will plump up nicely but stay fairly al dente as compared to Rice.  Test the seasoning half way through.  Do not jump the gun on the salt because you may have a saltier stock than others.

Test the Barley when you're 3/4 of the way through the stock, 20-25 minutes. Keep going if you want. A few ladles from the end, add the vegetables back.  When all the stock is absorbed, turn the heat down.  Add 1/4 c of the Parmesan Cheese and stir.  Add the Butter in Pieces over top.  Cover and set aside for 5 - 10 minutes.

Serve with more Parmesan and a pat of butter. MMMMMM we also went further into decadence land and added some Truffle oil to enhance the shrooms.

Drinking a Faiveley Mecurey 2005.  YUMMO!

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