Squash and Barley ‘Risotto’

Squash and barley risotto with roasted autumn vegetables.Risotto is a traditional northern Italian dish of short-grain rice cooked in broth and finished with butter and grated hard cheese, usually parmigianno.  The “ris” in the name refers to the rice, so “barley risotto” is sort of an oxymoron.  There happens to be an Italian word for barley cooked in the same style as risotto: orzotto.[1]

Anyways, this morning I prepared a squash and barley risotto on Global Edmonton and promised to post the recipe here.  This is a dish we do at Elm Catering throughout the autumn, a re-imagining of the traditional risotto using some local fall ingredients.  It would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps in lieu of mash potatoes.

You can use either pot or pearl barley.  Both of these have had most of the bran removed from the grain, so they have smooth, creamy textures.  The barley is cooked just like a traditional risotto, only using a light squash purée instead of plain chicken broth.  Any type of winter squash can be used, from butternut to hubbard to pumpkin.  We use kubocha squash for its deep orange colour.

Though it isn’t on the marquis, the real star of this dish is the cheese.  We use the hard, aged Grizzly gouda made by Sylvan Star.  If you’d like more info about Sylvan Star I have a post about them here.

The full recipe follows.

 

Squash and Barley ‘Risotto’

Ingredients

  • 4 L light chicken stock
  • 1300 g peeled, seeded, cubed winter squash
  • 150 g unsalted butter, cubed (first quantity)
  • 500 g pearl barley
  • 150 g finely minced yellow onion
  • 20 g finely minced garlic
  • 300 mL dry hard cider or dry white wine
  • 100 g finely grated Grizzly gouda, plus more for garnish
  • 150 g unsalted butter, cubed (second quantity)

Procedure

  1. Combine light chicken stock and squash in a pot.  Cook over medium high heat until squash is very tender.  Puré with an immersion blender.
  2. In a separate, heavy, medium pot, melt the first quantity of butter.  Add barley and cook over medium heat until aromatic and starting to turn golden brown.
  3. Add the minced onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Add hard cider or wine.  Cook briefly.
  5. Add the squash purée to the barley a ladle at a time, stirring periodically.  Maintain a simmer until the barley is tender, about 20-30 minutes.  You may not use all of the squash purée produced by this recipe, but it’s better to have a bit too much than too little.
  6. Once the barley is tender, remove from heat and let stand for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in Grizzly gouda and the second quantity of butter.  Stir until the butter is melted and both the butter and cheese are incorporated thoroughly.  The risotto should have the consistency of a loose porridge.
  7. Garnish with black pepper and more finely grated Grizzly gouda.

Yield: about 4 L squash and barley risotto, enough for at least 12 people!

 

True risotto often accompanies braised meats like ossobuco, garnished with a mixture of garlic, parsley, and lemon zest called gremolata.  At Elm we sometimes do a play on this and make a “gremolata” out of dried cranberry, walnut, and celery leaves.

 

 

  1. “Orzo” is the Italian word for barley.  The pasta orzo is so-called because it resembles grains of barley.  Isn’t that fascinating?

The Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey is certainly one of the finest gifts made by the New World to the Old.

-Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste

 

A Thanksgiving turkey, fresh from the ovenThe Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend we pick up a turkey from the Four Whistle truck at Old Strathcona, then take it home and cut it up, usually into two suprêmes (breasts with the drumette still attached) and two leg-thighs.  I know: bringing the whole roasted bird to the table, and carving that bird in front of the guests, is an indispensable part of Thanksgiving.  I appreciate the pageantry of tableside carving, but there are some huge advantages to separating the bird.

With the bird broken up into smaller pieces I can sear them to jump-start the browning.  Each piece can then be removed from the oven at the proper temperature (165°F for legs, 155°F for breasts).  Also, the turkey cooks in under an hour, which makes our Thanksgiving timeline less stressful and more flexible.

Finally, with the remaining carcass I can make a stock to be used at the same dinner as the meat.  We have essence of turkey to add to the soup, the stuffing, and many of the vegetable accompaniments.

I think the above gastronomic benefits trump Thanksgiving ritual.

For a few years I was riding the brine bandwagon, and I’d submerge the turkey bits in a simple solution of salt, brown sugar, and sage.  More recently I’ve simply been laying to two breasts and the two legs on a wire rack, seasoning them generously with salt, black pepper, and herbs, then leaving the turkey uncovered in the fridge until Monday.  The skin dries out so that it will brown well in the oven.

Once the bird is cut and resting in the fridge, it’s time to make turkey stock.

Making Turkey Stock

My general stock-making procedure is outlined here.  Really the only difference between my turkey stock and chicken stock is that the turkey stock is very herbaceous, especially with sage.

Here’s my complete turkey stock method.

Turkey Stock

Ingredients

  • carcass of one 10-15 lb turkey, including neck, gizzard, and wingtips
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small head of garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • roughly 2 cups dry cider
  • roughly 6 L very cold water
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 5 black peppercorns, crushed

Procedure

  1. Roast bones in a heavy pan at 350°F until thoroughly browned. Remove and set aside.
  2. Roast the vegetables in rendered turkey fat until browned. Remove a reserve for later use.
  3. Pour any excess fat from the pan.  Deglaze the pan with the dry cider and reduce au sec.
  4. Put the roasted bones and the cider reduction in a stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer very gently for 24 hours.
  5. Add the roasted vegetables to the pot. Return the liquid to a boil and simmer gently for 2 hours.
  6. Add the herbs and peppercorns.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  7. Strain the mixture and chill thoroughly.  Once chilled, remove any fat from the surface of the stock.

Please, please save the abovementioned fat and fry something in it.  Here’s an idea:

Turkey Gravy

I know gravy is supposed to be made from pan juices, but if there’s loads of juice in your roasting pan, doesn’t that mean your meat is dry?  I prefer to make gravy from stock, fortified with the minimal drippings in the roasting pan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup turkey fat, either from the roasting pan, or reserved from the chilled stock
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cider
  • 1 L turkey stock

Procedure

  1. Deglaze the roasting pan with the dry cider.  Reduce the cider to 1/4 its original volume.
  2. In a separate pot, combine the fat and flour.  Cook out the flour for about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir the cider and stock into the roux.  Adjust seasoning and consistency.
The Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Leftover turkey and wild rice soupToday I used the rest of my turkey giblets, as well as some other Thanksgiving leftovers.

I simmered the turkey neck, heart, and bones with onion, carrots, celery, thyme, white wine, and water to make stock. The neck gave a lot of body to the stock. A lot. When I chilled some extra stock it solidified to a thick pudding. To the rest of my stock I added mirepoix, corn, and left-over turkey meat. I also threw in some wild rice, which was cooked in a separate pot (cooking rice in the same pot will leach starch which clouds the otherwise clear soup).

More ideas for using up turkey:

Turkey Pot PieTurkey pot pie

Turkey and Waffles

Turkey and waffles

 

 

 

Turkey Giblets

A plate of turkey giblets: neck, liver, and heart.This was the first year that I had a hand in preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. Subsequently it was also the first time that I came in contact with the infamous giblets: the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard of the turkey, stored together in a bag in the cavity of the bird.

First things first: I needed to know what I was dealing with. I was familiar with the general shape and function of the first three items on that list. The gizzard, however, I embarrassingly thought was the flap of skin hanging between a turkey’s beak and neck. Turns out this is the wattle, “an organ of sexual dimorphism” (Wikipedia), whatever that means. The gizzard is actually a stomach with strong muscles that break down food.

On inspection of my own turkey giblets, and comparison with pictures on the internet, I decided that I was not given a gizzard, and that my turkey’s liver had been broken in two. In the picture at left, clockwise from the top left is the neck (obviously), the heart, and two pieces of liver.

A quick Google search suggested that the giblets are most often simmered with the gravy to add extra offally good (pun) flavour. I also looked for preparations dealing just with the liver. People online were divided as to whether turkey livers make for good eats. You can only read so many blogs and forums that waffle back and forth before just trying it out yourself.

I basically followed Julia Childs’ recipe for sautéed chicken livers: salt, pepper, and flour the livers, then sauté them in butter and oil with mushrooms and ham (homemade bacon in my case). I spread the mixture on lightly toasted baguette rounds, then had them as an appetizer to left-over turkey and mashed potatoes.

The neck and heart are great additions to turkey stock.