Tuesday, March 10, 2009

not so fancy

the first time 
i ordered risotto,
i was six week into
my first real job, at a
i had never even tasted
a fork-full, but i had
heard the stories
of never ending stirring
over a hot stove
and i thought,
this must be very
(um...i know.)

i had been eyeing up the dish
and when others at the table
selected the same thing,
i thought,
i'm going for it.

it was gummy,
very heavy and dotted
with undercooked diced
vegetables that made
the dish seem
the furthest
thing from fancy.

i wrote it off,
and checked it off:
sure, i never really wanted
to eat it again,
but at least i could say i
had experienced it.

then two years later,
at a press trip for work
at the amazing
in napa
they served corn risotto
as an appetizer.
it was indescribably good:
slightly al dente arborio rice,
ultra creamy
fresh kernels
of sweet corn
sitting in a foamy parmesan broth.

when i came home,
i decided that i was going to make
a pot myself.
i stood, scared
to ever stop
moving the spoon,
worried that the one second
that i used to transfer
warm chicken stock
into the rice,
would ruin the whole

in school,
two years later,
my fear of ruining
risotto dissipated.
when you're forced
to make something
over and
over and
over again
that tends to happen.

for me, it became a fun
stirring the
slightly toasted rice
and softened onions
(mostly) constantly,
adding warmed stock,
ladle by ladle,
and watching the grains
absorb the liquid,
timing it just right.

i loved
discovering that other
grains are just as capable
of releasing their
to create a creamy
risotto-like dish.

the process is the same,
give or take the cooking time.
whole grains
generally require a longer
stay over the flame
to reach a toothsome
and the finished product
is often hardier,
filling in a slightly
different way
than the white rice version.
it also makes it not
quite as elegant a meal,
more of a casual salve
for a cold night
at home.

this one is made
with barley,
which just feels so winter,
but i imagine,
when done right,
could be so spring, too.
peas and chives give
the mixture a pop
of color and a change
in flavor, which
is quite welcome with
such an admittedly,
monotone dish.
and, my favorite part
came from using a
mixture of
mushroom and chicken
a noticeable earthiness.

give yourself an hour
from start to finish.
it will not be a stressful
60 minutes,
or so exciting,
but on the plus side,
it will help you
strengthen your
stirring muscle.

when you're finished,
you'll have a
hot hearty pot,
that tastes special,
but lets you feel
like you can
feed a bunch
of people
and forget
to care
or not
the dish is
barley risotto with peas and parmesan
if you're crazy for mushrooms, feel free to go 100% mushroom stock. for a more subtle flavor, mix the two like i did, or if you can't stand them, leave it out. i'm able to find 32 oz. containers of mushroom stock at specialty or slightly gourmet grocery stores. adding shrimp, scallops or even sauteed chicken would be delicious and make for a more substantial meal.

8-10 cups chicken and/or mushroom stock
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 pkg. (16 oz.) barley
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra
for passing at the table

in saucepot, bring stock to a simmer; reduce heat to low.

meanwhile, in large skillet or medium saucepot, melt butter over medium heat. add onions and garlic and cook 10 minutes, or until softened and translucent, but not browned. season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. add barley and cook 2 minutes, stirring to coat.

add 1/2 cup warmed stock and cook 3 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed, stirring almost constantly. add 1/2 cup stock and cook 3 minutes more, or until liquid is absorbed, stirring. repeat process until grains have released their starches, have swelled and are tender to the bite. the process should take about 45 minutes - you may not need all of the liquid.

stir in peas, chives and parmesan cheese. cook 1 minute, or until warmed through. season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. divide risotto among bowls; pass additional cheese at the table.


Lisa said...

barley risotto! what a clever idea...

meg said...

it looks soo good!