Barley risotto! Or how to transform a simple slow cooked chicken into something extra


Martha Stewart’s Garlic Chicken with Barley recipe is fantastic for several reasons.

First, I get to eat barley. I love rice and beans and pasta, but I am always looking to incorporate different grains into my diet, and this recipe does that.  Barley is cheap, tasty, and nutritious. Get some.

Second, it’s a slow cooker recipe, so no fuss no muss. Martha recommends browning the chicken and you can. For mine (above), I did not brown it at the beginning. But at the end took the chicken out, put it on a sheet pan and put it under the broiler for a few minutes until golden. Boom! Browning accomplished. Plus I love it when I can just dump things in the slow cooker in the beginning. 

Third, you can change this recipe in so many ways. You can replace the whole chicken with chicken pieces (e.g. 2-3 pounds).  No wine? Just use 2 cups of stock. You can tweak the onion and garlic as you wish. You can swap out the peas: I decided to go with a can of green beans instead of peas and added them to the end. And of course while I love fresh tarragon, any herb goes well (as do dried herbs).

Finally, the barley may be very liquidy at the end. That is totally fine. You can strain the liquid and it becomes like a sauce. Also, no problem: make barley risotto! By that I mean, remove the chicken and put the rest of the mixture in a pot and put it on a burner on medium heat.  If you are using canned or cooked veg like I was, you can also add it in and stir it and warm it up. Slowly cook the mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the texture of the barley is how you like it. (If you need to, add 1/4 cup or so of water or stock at a time to keep it moist.) Just when you are close to it being where you think it should be in terms of liquid and texture, stir in around 1/2 cup or so of shredded parmesan, just like you would a risotto. It may sound complicated, but it isn’t.

So you see, what starts like a simple slow cooked chicken transforms into something special if you want. Or not. Simple is fine too. It’s just dinner. And slow cooked dinners are hard to ruin. 

I’m a firm believer in riesling being the default wine for chicken dishes. But really any white of your choosing would hit the spot. I would save the champagne for another meal, but if that’s what you got, then go for it. A pilsner or an IPA would be good with this, I think. So would cider – hard or soft.  Even a ginger ale. Drink what makes you happy. Enjoy.

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