It is FINALLY getting warmer. Snow is melting. I have left my puffy coat at home for a few days, and I actually thought about NOT wearing tights this morning (I thought about it, but I’m not crazy – I still wore tights). But, it’s still chilly enough for some hearty warm winter time comfort foods. And yet, since spring is coming, it’s best if that comfort food is also super healthy and crazy delicious. Enter, Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley risotto.
By cutting the arborio rice and using pearl barley, you can make a hearty whole grain risotto that tastes amazing, even if it is slightly less creamy than a traditional risotto. The best part is that it doesn’t taste healthy but that can be our secret.
Do yourself a favor and just try it. This is one of my new faves.
Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto
Makes about 5 servings for me (but 3 or 4 servings if feeding my boyfriend too). I used my 14″ cast iron – if it had been any smaller it might be necessary to combine all the ingredients at the end in a bigger bowl/pan once the barley was completely cooked through.
8 oz pearl barley (I bought a bag from Trader Joe’s)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 butternut squash, diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx)
1 or 2 tablespoons butter (2 is more delicious, but 1 is a little healthier)
1 tablespoon cornstarch.
1 tsp dried parsley
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup apple juice, or sweet white wine (but I used apple juice, if using wine, reduce to 1/2 C, use water for rest)
2/3 C grated Parmesan reggiano
Spread squash on baking pan and toss with a little olive oil to coat. Put in oven to roast at 400F for about 15 minutes, until it starts to sizzle and brown, but is not cooked completely through.
In a large cast iron skillet (or any large skillet, or sauce pan with low sides – the sides should be low to allow the liquid to evaporate), saute onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent (5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside. Put mushrooms in pan with additional olive oil and sautee until golden. Remove from pan and set aside with onions.
Put uncooked barley into hot skillet and let brown for about a minute or two over medium heat. Add 1/2 C broth. Stir frequently until broth is absorbed, then add more broth in 1/2 cup increments and stir until absorbed. After about 15 or 20 minutes, you should have added 2 to 3 cups of the broth. Stir in one tablespoon cornstarch and about a teaspoon of dried parsley. At this point, add the butternut squash and continue stirring, adding more liquid (broth and juice/wine) until absorbed. This will take another 20 minutes or so of frequent stirring. Occasionally taste the barley to see if it’s tender. If all the liquid has been added but the barley is not yet tender, add a little water.
When barley is tender, or just about, add the onions and mushrooms back in. Stir frequently until all liquid is absorbed and barley and squash are completely cooked. Before serving, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and grated parmesan until thoroughly incorporated and melted. At this point, season with salt and lots of pepper. You do not want to add much salt before adding the cheese, because the cheese itself is very salty. But lots of pepper is yummy. Serve with additional grating of parmesan on top, if desired.