Random Bag Night – Mushroom, Bean & Barley Pilaf

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After a whirlwind weekend of too much food, booze and air mattress “sleeping” we got home yesterday looking for something easy, relatively healthy and most of all, didn’t involve getting back into the car. Turns out we had some homemade sausage in the freezer from my father-in-law and in the pantry, I had a container of pearl barley which had probably been in there a while since neither of us could recall when it was purchased. Additionally I had bought some mushrooms last week and we always keep a stock of canned beans, chicken broth and dried mushrooms in the house (to the best of our abilities – whenever we get low on these and other critical pantry items we write it on the chalk board in the kitchen so it doesn’t get forgotten come grocery list time).  So combining these items, the barley pilaf was born. This version is VERY mushroom-y, so for folks who are not really into mushrooms, this is not your dish. I think the barley needs a strong flavor pairing, as it’s kind of bland itself. 

The nice part about the pilaf version is that it is not as hands on as risotto so you can do other things or, like me, hang out on your front porch and soak up as much amazing weather as you can while you periodically pop back inside to check on the progress of dinner.

1 cup pearl barley

1 cup dried mushrooms (I have a mix of wild + shitakes)

1 package white button mushrooms, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 can white beans (any kind is fine), drained and rinsed

3 cups chicken (or veg or beef or…) stock

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons butter

3-4 tablespo0ns olive oil

1 handful fresh chopped parsley (+ other herbs – basil or chives would be great)

salt + pepper to taste

parmesan cheese – to top the finished dish

Take dried mushrooms and soak them in about 1.5 cups of warm water – preferably for an hour or so, but at least until they are soft. Once they are done soaking, remove the mushrooms, chop them into small pieces, and set aside the mushroom “broth” as you will be adding that to the dish:

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In the meantime, dice the onion and garlic and add it to a medium sized sauce pan (with a lid) along with the butter and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Stir frequently and saute until the onions are nice and soft – 5 to 7 minutes. Once the onions are soft, add the barley and stir to coat it for about 1 minute. Add the beans and both the dried and fresh mushrooms and stir to coat, add a generous pinch of salt as well. 

Allow the ingredients to cook, while you stir, for another minute and then add the mushroom broth, the chicken broth and the white wine and turn the heat to medium high. Allow the liquids to come to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and cover with your lid. I checked every 10 minutes or so on the progress and to stir the pilaf. It took about 40 or so minutes for the barley to get soft. Once the barley is soft, add the chopped fresh herbs and stir for another minute or two with the lid off. If you have excess liquid at this point, you may want to turn the heat up a little and stir until some of it evaporates.

When you are ready, serve with some parmesan cheese.

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