BLT Barley Risotto?!

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I mean lets be honest anything cooked risotto style is creamy deliciousness! Some of you may not know that “risotto” is actually a technique. The type of starch or grain you use can be varied. Typically, restaurants use arborio or carnarolli rice. These are short grain rices and release the most starch content when constantly stirred. (this process is a true pain in the butt, but so worth it)

My BLT barley risotto takes the classic technique but uses barley instead of the typical rice. Barley is such a great alternative for a few reasons. 1.) Barley still releases starch, 2.) Barley has a great “al dente” texture to it,  and 3.) Barley is really good for you with loads of fiber, protein and amino acids!  While adding bacon to a healthy grain may seem to negate the whole purpose of using something healthy in the first place….I say everything in moderation! :-)

BLT Barley Risotto

3-4 slices thick cut bacon
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used heirloom because I’m clearly fancy haha)
1 leek, thinly sliced and cleaned
1 bag of pearl barley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
Chicken stock (I ended up using 3 quarts)
Mascarpone Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

In a rondeau* Render your bacon down until almost perfectly crispy. (you can either remove the bacon at this stage if you prefer a crispy garnish) I leave my bacon in during the cooking process…Here’s why: the chewy lardons really add a textural contrast :-)

Once the bacon is rendered, add in your leeks and garlic. Let these saute for 5 minutes or until the leeks are wilted. (you may also hear the term translucent…aka just par-cook them a bit first) Add in your barley and stir. Let the barley almost toast for a minute then deglaze the pan with white wine. Let the wine cook off or until you no longer get a harsh alcohol smell from it.  It will look like this:

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Now, this part takes a bit…Gradually work in your chicken stock in 2 cup intervals until the barley absorbs it all. Stir every two minutes to check on it. There is honestly no need to stand there and stir the barley constantly throughout. Once the barley is 99% percent cooked and the most of the liquid is absorbed, add in parmesan cheese and mascarpone cheese. These will attribute to the saltiness and creaminess of the dish. Last thing to do before serving is throw in your halved or whole cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

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*if you don’t have a rondeau or know what the hell it is..it is basically a shallow wide pot with lower sides. I have used large saute pans and even large pots for this. But the wider the service area the better.

Don’t have barley on hand? Try using a longer grain rice or a starchy potato diced small. The cooking times will vary of course! Please guys make this one, you won’t be disappointed!!

Cold Weather Comfort

Final Stew
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Hi, I’m Michael. Nicholas’s boyfriend. I have to admit that as a home cook I was quite intimidated to date a professional chef. But I guess my food lives up to Nicholas’s standards because he really appreciates it when I cook. Today in Boston it’s freezing outside and what’s better than a slow cooked warm hardy meal. Nicholas doesn’t really get exicted for soup, it has no substance, but I’m a big soup fan. So a stew it is. My beef barley stew is a healthy mix of vegetables and chuck beef.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs stew chuck beef
  • 1 cup diced carrots (10 – 12 baby carrots or 3 – 5 regular carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery (6 – 8 stalks of celery)
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms (about 1 pack)
  • 1.5 cups diced onion (2 medium to large onions)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, fine dice.
  • 3 – 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 – 1.5 cups pearl barley (depends on how much you want)
  • 42 – 48oz (4 – 6 cups) low sodium beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (Pref low sodium soy if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon worchester sauce
  • 1 Box onion soup mix (2 packets – I used Lipton Onion)
  • 12oz lager or ale (I used local brew, Shipyard from Portland Maine)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

I like to use up things I have in my fridge, so every recipe I do often is unique for that day. Remember to BYOC or Be Your Own Chef. If you don’t have fresh herbs, used dry or just leave them out. Don’t want to use beer, substitute with more stock. Adjust the salt and pepper to your tastes.

Beef Barley Stew Prep
Step 1: Prepping all the vegetables and get them ready.

Diced Beef Chuck
Step 2: Dice the meat into 1/2″ cubes.

Salt Pepper Flour
Step 3: Put the flour, 1/2 the salt, 1/2 the pepper on a plate or bowl and mix with your fingers. Then dredge the meat in the flour. You’ll probably have to do this in stages or you’ll get flour everywhere. Shake off the flour from the meat and place aside on another clean plate.

Browning Beef Chuck
Step 4: Put the vegetable oil in a large stock pot and turn the heat to medium high. I used a heavy duty 8 quart All-Clad stock pot to help with even heating and reduce splattering. When the oil starts to ripple, test with a piece of floured meat. If it starts to sizzle, it’s show time. Cook the meat in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. You want to brown the meat, not steam it. Place the browned meat aside on a plate until you’ve finished all the meat.

Brown Bits
Step 5: Turn off the heat. Notice all the brown crispy bits on the bottom of the pan? That’s the good stuff! CAREFULLY pour off the excess oil to a heat proof bowl. Then pour in the beer (and enjoy a nice beer facial… jk, don’t get burned by the steam!) and pour in stock. Turn the heat back on to medium. Using a wooden spoon, scrap the browned bits off the bottom of the pan until the pan is essentially clean. Add in the worchester sauce and soy sauce. Take off heat.

Vegetables in Slow Cooker
Step 6: In a 5+ quart slow cooker set to 6 – 10 hours depending on your time period (I did 6 hours to make dinner time), add the vegetables, meat, barley, herbs, and onion soup mix. Pour over the heated stock and beer. Be careful not to burn yourself. The stock mixture didn’t cover the vegetables and meat, but they will release water and strink as they cook. You can always add some more stock or water as it cooks. Add the rest of the salt and pepper to taste.  You can always add more later if you want.

Step 7: Clean up and let it cook. I stir it every hour to make sure all the barley has access to moisture.

Note: I made this with 2 cups of barley and it was just too much for my tastes, but still very good.

So what’s for dessert? We have some pears and apples left over, so I guess I’ll be making a pear apple crisp.

Enjoy!

-Michael

Elevating Classics

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One of my favorite things to do is take classic recipes and put a twist on them. Strawberry Shortcake is just one of the many American staples that I LOVE. The classic style is too plain for me. I really love being creative and different…and maybe a tad dramatic! With that in mind, I created a cornmeal biscuit, macerated berries with lemon zest and whipped vanilla bean mascarpone. Your childhood favorite is still there, it’s just a modern mature approach, which is sure to impress your friends. :-)

P.S. Remember that all my recipes can be altered. Cooking is about having fun and using what you have on hand. This recipe would be great with a different fruit as well!

Cornmeal Biscuits
1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Cornmeal (gives a great texture to your biscuits)
1 1/2 tbsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/8 cup white sugar
1 stick butter (cold! this helps create the layers you know and love)
Buttermilk as needed….( start with 1/2 a cup save some more for brushing on top prior to baking)
Zest of 1 lemon

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest and sugar together in a large bowl. Cut in the stick of butter. (this basically means incorporate butter using a pastry blender or fork until the butter is pea sized.)
Drizzle in the buttermilk until dough starts to form. Remember you can always add but you can’t take away in cooking!

Roll out your biscuit dough onto a floured surface until about 1 inch. Brush with buttermilk and bake at 375 degrees until golden and risen.  Let cool.
For my filling I used strawberries and blackberries tossed with lemon zest, juice and white sugar. Feel free to switch up the fruit I used for something more to your liking…e.g. peaches, cherries or plums!

The typical whip cream is replaced by a rich and creamy whipped mascarpone cheese (basically this is an Italian cream cheese) Whip the mascarpone with white OR brown sugar, vanilla beans AND extract and slowly drizzle in some heavy cream to thin out to your desired consistency.