Mushrooms and barley are a classic combination in soup, but here they pair up in a creamy risotto-like dish that can be served as an entrée or side. Avoid the bland-flavored common white mushroom here; go for something with real character: in fall, consider chanterelles, chicken of the woods, porcini or lobster mushrooms; in spring morels would be ideal.
1. To prepare mushrooms: Just before cooking them, rinse and dry them well, then sauté mushrooms in the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. To make risotto: Heat stock in a saucepan and keep it hot near the back of the stove. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a deep, wide saucepan over low flame. Add shallots and cook them slowly until tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add barley and stir until all the grains are coated with butter, 1-2 minutes. Add wine; stir and cook over medium flame until most of the liquid is gone.
4. Stir in half the hot stock, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and stir in sautéed mushrooms. Add the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Stop adding stock when the barley is tender and creamy. Season the risotto lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in half the Parmesan and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan sprinkled over each serving.
If you’re using dried mushrooms, start with about 1 1/2 ounces and steep them in hot water until softened. Rinse the mushrooms well and dry them off as much as possible before sautéing them. Strain the mushroom liquid through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer and use the liquid as part of the stock.
Copyright by Terese Allen