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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms

Contrary to Boston Beer's (Sam Adams) Jim Koch's assertion that "Hops are to beer what grapes are to wine", it's barley that fills that role in brewing. It provides flavor and fermentable sugar. (Hops are spices, like basil, oregano, etc. They add aroma and tannins.)

But barley, being a grain, has a place in the kitchen - albeit not as versatile a one as rice or wheat.

A week ago on Wednesday, the Food Section of the Washington Post ran several articles on using a pressure cooker ... along with with recipes. One recipe was for Barley Risotto with Mushrooms.

A few days later, I was pouring samples of Clipper City beers at a Whole Foods Market in Alexandria, VA. After finishing the demonstration, I hunted for the recipe's ingredients.

When I couldn't find any pearl barley, I was told that there had been an anomalous run on it in the three days following the publication of that recipe. The store was out-of-stock. Ah, the power of the press!

The recipe - adapted from "Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way" by Lorna Sass (Clarkson Potter, November 2006) - calls for 1/3 cup dry sherry or red wine and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds. I substituted for the sherry with 1/3 cup McHenry Lager. Delicious! ... an earthy and sweet character from the combination of the beer, mushrooms, and fennel seeds.

To closer match the sherry, I'd be interested in using a Belgian Red such as Brasserie Verhaeghe Vichte's Duchesse de Bourgogne.

More recipes cooking with beer.

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