Wild Rice and Barley Pudding

A variation on a Christmas classic, using some local pantry items.

I had some cooked barley in my fridge, remnants of a barley-broth.  I decided to employ the rice pudding method to save the left-overs.  (Rice Pudding Method: a lengthy secondary cooking in sugar and milk.)  The barley sucks up a lot of the milk and releases some starch into the pot.

Once a porridge has formed, cooked wild rice and dried cherries are added, and the whole lot is thickened with butter, egg yolk, and a touch of cream.

Since the wild rice and cherries are added at the end, they stay firm for textural contrast.

Wild Rice and Barley Pudding

Ingredients

  • 235 g cooked pearled barley
  • 300 g whole milk
  • 30 g dark brown sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 50 g cooked wild rice
  • 20 g dried sour cherries
  • 30 mL brandy
  • 1 egg yolk with absolutely all remnants of white removed
  • 20 g butter
  • 30 g heavy cream

Procedure

  1. Soak the dried cherries in the brandy.
  2. Put barley in a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir to combine.  Bring to the boil then simmer until most of the milk has boiled off or been absorbed, about 40 minutes.
  3. Strain the cherries from the brandy.  Reserve the brandy.  Add the cherries and wild rice to the barley.  Remove the cinnamon stick.
  4. Return to a simmer.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in the butter, then the egg yolk.  Adjust the consistency of the pudding with the heavy cream.  Serve immediately, accompanied by a taste of the cherry-brandy.

Makes 3-4 servings.

 

Wild rice and barley pudding, with dried evans cherries

Cold-Smoking Pickerel

Cold-smoking pickerel on the barbecueI recently picked up some pickerel from Rebekah’s Fish at the Strathcona Market and took my first stab at cold-smoking on my barbecue.

To hot-smoke on my barbecue I just remove the grate from the righthand side and put foil packets of wood chips directly onto the flames.  I put the meat on the left side, which remains off.  This way the meat isn’t over direct heat and will cook evenly.  With the right burner on a medium-low setting, the wood chips smolder and the average temperature inside the barbecue stays around 250°F.

The point of cold-smoking is to impart the flavour of the smoke without cooking the meat.  Examples of food that you might want to keep raw are cured fish, jerky, and certain types of cured meat like salami or speck.  To keep the meats from cooking the temperature has to stay below 100°F.  Barbecue burners are so large that no matter how low you set them, they will always produce enough heat to raise the temperature of the barbecue above 100°F.

The solution is simple enough.  I ignited my wood chips in a stainless steel pan on my stove top, then put the pan in the barbecue, where I usually rest the packets.  The barbecue remained off, and functioned only as a chamber to hold the smoke.

The major disadvantage of the pan method is that, without any active heat source, the chips only smoulder for about five minutes before they have to be re-ignited.

Properly curing cold-smoked meats is very important because they usually stay in the temperature “danger zone” for several hours.  The danger zone, between 39°F and 140°F, represents the temperatures at which microbes grow best.  Below this range they are inactive, and above this range they die.  In professional kitchens they say that any food that stays in the danger zone for more than two hours is unfit to serve.  When we cure meat we make the flesh inhospitable to microbes, and we can therefore keep it in the danger zone for extended periods.

Food safety aside, properly curing the fish makes the flesh firm, dense, and pleasantly salty.  Below is the recipe I used to cure my pickerel, though I have to caution that I’ve found fish-curing to be a fickle business.  I’ve tried the same recipe on different pieces of fish and had wildly different results.

Smoked Pickerel
adapted from Charcuterie

Ingredients

  • 850 g pickerel fillet in one piece, skin on, bones removed
  • 157 g kosher salt
  • 63 g dark brown sugar
  • 13 g crushed juniper berries
  • 20 mL whiskey

Procedure

  1. Mix the salt, sugar, and juniper. Spread half the dry cure in a container that will just fit the fish. Lay the fish, skin side down, on the cure. Pour the whiskey over the fish, then sprinkle the remaining cure over the fish. Try to get more cure on the thicker parts of the fillet.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap. Rest a flat board for pan on the fish, and top with a 500 g weight. Refrigerate for 20 hours.
  3. Rinse the cure from the fish. Pat dry with paper towel and let rest, uncovered, on a wire rack in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Cold-smoke with maple chips until desired flavour is achieved.
I served my smoked pickerel with green pea and wild rice crêpes, and celery root slaw with grainy mustard dressing.
Smoked Pickerel, wild rice and green pea crêpes, celery root slaw, grainy mustard dressing

Wild Rice

A fistful of wild riceToday Judy showed up with a bag of Canada Goose wild rice from Fort Assiniboine.  Wild “rice” is actually a misnomer: it’s the seed of zizania grasses, which are not part of the rice family, though they are closely related. Anyways, it’s indigenous to lakes across Canada and the northern United States.

The harvesting of wild rice is a pretty interesting affair.  Here’s a video of some hippies in Maine taking a canoe into the rice marsh.

Because of the high moisture content of the grain, wild rice actually goes through a good deal more processing than its true-rice cousins.  After harvest wild rice is left in large, damp piles to mature for about a week, then dried over a fire.  These steps both develop flavour and weaken the outer husk, which is later removed by threshing.[1]

Wild rice is best cooked using the “pasta method,” ie. at a vigorous boil in a large pot of water.  Once the dark layer of bran has burst to reveal the starchy interior, the rice is tender enough to eat.

Wild Rice Broth: A Weird Digression

Wild rice broth with carrots and green onionsI’ve noticed that the water left in the pot is aromatic and flavourful.  To me smells and tastes very much like rooibos tea.  It also has a fantastic colour and is relatively clear.

It got me thinking.

I started saving my wild rice broth, usually to incorporate it into the same dish as the rice.  I might, for instance, reheat the rice in a bit of its own broth.  I’ve also tried infusing the broth with a bit of garlic and celery, and I think it’s good enough to be consumed as a first course.

Perhaps, with its mild astringency, the broth is better enjoyed as a tea.

Just thinking aloud.

 

1. McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. ©2004 Scribner, New York. Page 476.