Barley Mushroom Risotto

As I was looking for some make-ahead meals for the kiddies while Q and I are away (with a vague and distant hope that they may actually eat them and not just toss them in the can immediately before we return), I came across this recipe for what looked like mushroom risotto but is actually made with pearl barley instead of arborio rice. The process was pretty much the same--me standing at the stove and patiently stirring for about half an hour--but figured it was worth trying something new for a change and keeping fingers crossed that it may come in handy for them for a lunch or dinner over the next few days. I have to confess that I skipped the step of reconstituting the dried mushrooms and just threw in some sauteed ones, since my main priority was to pack my suitcase and cross other items off my to-do list before leaving for the airport, and I knew my critics wouldn't notice the difference. It might have added a deeper, more 'shroomy flavour, and probably would, but luckily the loss of that won't be noticeable to any of them. When I took a little taste, it seemed plenty flavourful enough to me so the shortcut seemed to have work. Then again, it's more likely that a mushroom pizza delivered to the door will be the only fungus any of them will be interested in while the parental units are away. The truth hurts.

serves 4 as main course

4 cups chicken stock

1 oz dried mushrooms

4 oz assorted mushrooms, washed, trimmed and sliced

4 tbsp butter

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Place chicken stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and cover with two cups of the boiling stock. Let the mushrooms stand for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low under the chicken stock.

Warm 2 tbsp of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the slice mushrooms and saute until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

After five minutes, remove the reconstituted mushrooms from the stock and set aside. Line a fine mesh basket strainer with cheesecloth. Pour the liquid through the strainer back into the pot of simmering chicken stock.

Warm 2 tbsp of butter and the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until the vegetables are soft and translucent.

Add the barley, stir and continue to saute for 2 minutes. Stir in the white wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Ladle in one cup of warm stock and cook, stirring until the barley has absorbed the liquid. Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time until the barley has absorbed the stock before adding more. This will take 35 to 40 minutes.

Add the soaked mushroom, sauteed mushrooms and parmesan cheese. Cook for another 2 minutes to rewarm the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste.