Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Punch-drunk Barley

I like rice, but I'm really a fan of grains in general, so when I have the opportunity to test out a new grain, I'll do it. You won't even have to ask me twice!

I prepared this side dish to accompany my Lasagna-styled Enchiladas, thus found it fitting to utilize Southwestern flavors in order to allow the two separate dishes to come together as one cohesive meal. The "punch" comes from the Fresno chile, and the "drunk" comes from a little brewski. The dish worked. I liked it. I hope you will too.

Punch-drunk Barley

Servings: 4 to 6
Total Time: 50 min.

The drunken grain and its partner in culinary perserverance
1 tbls. olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Fresno chile, diced
1 c. pearled barley
1/2 c. good Mexican beer
2 c. chicken stock
4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbls. cilantro, chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lime

The starting lineup
1. Rinse the barley and begin heating a pan with olive oil on the stove. Apply a medium flame so the oil gets hot, but doesn't burn. If the olive oil reaches it's smoke point, you're probably going to want to start over.

2. Test the temperature of the oil by tossing a couple pieces of chopped onion into the pan. If you get a nice sizzle, the oil is hot and ready to go! Toss the rest of the onion in, along with the Fresno chile, and allow everything to sweat for a couple minutes.

3. After a couple minutes, add the barley and, finally, the garlic. Adding the garlic at the end will help prevent the pieces from burning, which is especially important if your garlic is cut into small pieces. Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Give the barley a few minutes to toast and the onions and peppers a chance to brown.

The starting lineup browning and toasting away
4. By this time, you should have some bits of deliciousness stuck to the bottom of your pan. Never fear, that's why the beer's here! Deglaze the pan by pouring the beer in. It's gonna steam, so watch your hands. With a wooden spatula, scrape the bottom of the pan so all of the caramelized bits release their grip. Allow the beer to cook down a little, but add the chicken stock before it completely evaporates. Bring the liquid to a boil.

The starting lineup brought to a simmer
5. Allow everything to simmer for 40 to 45 min., or until the barley is cooked, but retains a slight chew. Cover the pan so the liquid doesn't all evaporate.

6. Once the barley is done cooking, toss the lime juice, zest and cilantro into the pool. Stir everything together. Give it a taste to test your seasonings. Adjust if desired and taste again, preferably with a different spoon. Finally, serve and impress!

1. Barley can easily be substituted for rice or any other grain of your choosing. Remember to adjust the cooking time and amount of liquid used depending on your grain of choice.

2. A beer like Corona goes very well with lime, which is why I picked it. Don't let me stop you from experimenting though!

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