Barley's bristly profile and burley name adorn not just the ancient coin and crest, but the modern barroom, beer hall and brew joint. Barley means party.
Even the attention of the home cook. Barley might thicken a stew or do its lumpy best to hold together mushroom soup. It rarely stars in its own dish. Even its own side dish.
An injustice worthy of reconciliation. Barley has a toasty taste, a chewy texture and a satisfying finish that is welcome alongside roasted meat, paired with the steamy vegetable or bearing up under sauce. It's so good, it's even welcome at a party. On a plate.
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 50 minutes
Serves: 6 as a side dish
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2-3 cups beef broth, hot
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus some for buttering casserole
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons port wine
1 cup pearl barley
Tumble dried porcini mushrooms into a small bowl. Pour in hot water to cover (you may need to weight down the mushrooms with a teacup to keep them submerged). Let soak about 10 minutes.
Pull mushrooms from their soaking liquid. Rinse thoroughly and chop finely. Pour soaking liquid through a coffee filter (to strain out any grit). Add strained liquid to the hot broth.
Heat butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add white mushrooms and onion. Season with the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and mushrooms glow golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and chopped porcini mushrooms, stir 1 minute. De-glaze with port. Stir in barley.
Scrape barley mixture into a buttered casserole or other oven-safe baking dish. Pour in hot broth just to cover. Cover tightly with lid or foil. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until broth has been absorbed and barley is puffed and tender, about 50 minutes. Serve hot. Goes nicely with roast meat.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at email@example.com