Who’d a thought you could make an excellent risotto with barley?
Barley is a versatile cereal grain with a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency. It is the perfect substitute for Arborio rice in risotto. It is touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods having an abundance of manganese, magnesium, selenium, copper, chromium, Vitamins B1 and B3, and fiber.*
Although this recipe looks like a lot of work, it is actually fairly easy to make. Once you prep the ingredients, you throw them into a slow cooker, walk away, and let the cooker do it’s magic.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
½ cup shallots (chopped fine)
1½ cups pearl barley
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
16 ounces Cremini mushrooms, (sliced thin)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh sage (chopped)
¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, while stirring, until tender – about 2 minutes. Add the barley, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is mostly evaporated – about 3 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a slow cooker, cover and set the heat to low.
Using the same large pan on medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and wilted – about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, broth and bouillon to the slow cooker. Stir gently to combine. Set the slow cooker to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender – about 2 ½ hours. You will be lured by the aroma coming from the slow cooker. Do not give in to the temptation to open the cover. Every time the cover is lifted you need to add another 15 minutes of cooking time for lost heat.
After 2½ hours, remove the lid from the slow cooker and if the barley is tender, stir in the parsley, sage, ½ cup of the cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnished with the remaining ¼ cup cheese. Bring to the table while still hot.
Note: If the barley is not tender after 2½ hours, replace the cover and set the timer for another 30 minutes.
* Barley has gluten proteins so if you have celiac disease it is not a safe grain for you.