Weeknight dinners around here seem to swing between two extremes: there are those nights when grilling a piece of chicken or steak and throwing together a simple salad seems almost impossible and then there are those nights when time seems to have slowed down and you can try something a little bit more laborious and off the beaten path. This lovely Chicken and Barley Risotto is for those kind of nights.
I know we usually think of risotto as a short grain, rice based dish, generally made with Arborio rice but the fact is that it works really well with other grains like quinoa, farro, brown rice and pearl barley. Not only are these more nutritious, but they also don't require the constant, stuck-to-the-stove stirring that the more traditional rice demands, so it's a win-win on all sides! And it's a meal in a bowl! Need any more coaxing?!!
Every bite is warm, chewy, slightly creamy and utterly satisfying, full of tender chunks of chicken, the starchy goodness of barley and the bright, green wake-up of little bits of fresh parsley. Comfort food that's actually pretty good for you and just what we seem to crave as we head into those chillier fall evenings. Serve it with a simple salad which you can totally handle while you're NOT stirring and enjoy the delight of a slowed down evening, 'cause who the heck knows what craziness tomorrow night will be?!!
Chicken Barley Risotto
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: About an hour and 15 minutes
- 3-3 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup pearl barley
- Scant 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into small bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Zest of one small lemon
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Place the stock in a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a large heavyweight skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened, stirring often. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the barley.
2. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring often, until the wine has reduced by half. Add a couple of ladlefuls of the hot stock to the skillet and stir for about 5 minutes, Then add all but 1/2 cup of the rest of the stock in, as well as the chicken and half the parsley. Let cook for about 45 minutes uncovered, until all the stock has been absorbed into the barley. Stir every now and then but you definitely don't need to stand there and stir constantly. If the barley seems underdone, add a bit more stock so that it can soften up more.
3. Once the barley has absorbed all the stock, stir in the cream, remaining parsley, zest and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Note: Recipe adapted from A Suitcase And A Spatula by Tori Haschka. I tinkered around a bit with this--added more stock, subbed in chicken breasts for thighs and added a little grated Parmesan for extra creaminess.