Monday, January 16, 2012


Celebrating my husbands birthday last week at DBGB kitchen and bar, Daniel Boulud's brasserie inspired downtown pub, I indulged in east coast oysters, a glass of sparkling wine, and a sinfully delicious duck confit served over squash risotto, garnished with caramelized cipollini onions and fried sage leaves. What a treat!

We are particularly fond of DBGBs for relaxed celebrations. The food is always top notch, the wine and beer list extensive, the service: impeccable and the interior: uncramped and comfortable, reminiscent of a first class railway dining car from some delightful old movie. I particularly love the open shelving displays of wines, dry goods and magnificent copper cooking pots, each with its own plaque naming the famous chef who donated it. My, Mr. Boulud has some generous friends!
The squash risotto I had that night was something I wanted to make at home. Boulud's version was smooth and creamy, with the squash completely melted into the liquid of the rice, like baby food. True comfort food.  Digging into my cupboard I found a package of pearl barley and recalled a recipe using the risotto style cooking technique with this grain instead of arborio rice. Aha, why not? The result is a nuttier, chewier version of classic risotto; a nice variation. This method is a great way to incorporate a different grain into your menu. I used acorn squash instead of the more expected choice of butternut squash and gave it an extra boost of flavor by roasting it before adding it to the "risotto."
Consider trying pearl barley as a substitute for arborio rice in risotto recipes.

Squash risotto seems to be the dish of the hour. I found it again on a restaurant menu last week, this time at Alobar, a charming restaurant with a bit of a Spanish flair in Long Island City. Alobar's version was a pumpkin risotto garnished with pearl onions and topped with the inspired addition of sauteed chard,  a great bitter counterpoint to the sweet creamy rice.

Whether making it at home or sampling it a restaurant, squash risottos are not to be missed. This time of year a warming dish of winter squash bathed grains will fill the belly and the satisfy the soul.

 Acorn Squash Barley "Risotto"
2 cups of acorn squash, peeled and cubed
2 Tbs olive oil
2Tbs butter
2 shallots, finely minced
1 cup of pearly barley
1 cup white wine
4 cups of water or stock, simmering in a pot on the stove
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil
sage leaves- optional

•Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash with one tablespoon of the olive oil and bake in a single layer for 15-20 minutes. The squash should be tender but not too browned or it will change the color of the risotto.

•Heat the remain tablespoon of oil and the butter in a saute pan. Add the shallots and cook till they are soft and begin to look translucent.

•Add the barley to the pan and stir to coat all the grains in the warm fat. Cook, stirring continuously, for about five minutes.

•Add the roasted squash to the pan of barley and mash it down with the stirring spoon to mix it thoroughly. You can continue to mash the squash as the dish cooks.

•Add the wine and the thyme and stir to combine. When the liquid has mostly cooked away begin to add the simmering water or stock, by the ladleful, stirring with each addition and letting the liquid cook away before adding the next ladleful.
I tried this Gavi in the recipe and served it with the dish.
An Italian wine with dominant citrus notes, it brought
a complimentary flavor to the sweet-ish risotto.

•The barley will absorb at least two cups of liquid before you start to notice the grains beginning to swell a bit. Be patient. Continue to cook in this manor, adding more liquid when the pan gets dry.

•Continue to stir and mash down any lumpy bits of squash as you go.

•Taste the grains periodically for done-ness. They grains will remain firm but have an al dente finish with a pleasant chewy bite.

•To serve, sprinkle the "risotto" with the grated cheese and a generous drizzle of good quality olive oil and top with the sage leaves.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. Spammers have forced me to now review every comment before publishing. So please bear with me as I read through your comment. Thank you for visiting the blog!