What’s in my cupboard? Freaking deliciousness

by Kate Steadman

I made a bangup meal on Sunday. I needed some comfort before beginning the work week, and I’m trying to work through ingredients cluttering my cupboards.

The process has led to some epiphanies — turns out I love polenta. Also, barley. And Sunday’s wonderful risotto left-overs have been tickling my savory breakfast bone for days now.

So go forth and make some for yourself. The texture is different (and I think better) from aborrio rice – the grains are firmer and have a satisfying crunch/pop when you eat. It’s also much more filling.

I planned the chicken around the risotto — the lightly-breaded, lemony recipe was a perfect offset to the rich portobello flavor. I was too lazy to add a green, but you readers should eat your veggies!

Chicken Francese with Mushroom Barley Risotto

Chicken Francese with Mushroom Barley Risotto

Chicken Francese and Mushroom Barley Risotto

A couple comments on healthfulness: I altered both of these recipes to remove a substantial amount of butter. Listen, it’s almost summer. I love to eat but it’s also nice to go to the beach without wearing long sleeves and pants.

I do this often with recipes — if you’re cooking for yourself and know the difference won’t be super obvious, cut the oil and butter down. It preserves sanity — hearty, beautiful meals with enough calories to feel full, but not so many that it turns you away from cooking. When you’re a home chef it’s important to balance — if I make a brown butter sauce one night, it’s soup or lentils for the next.

If you’re making this for a special occasion and are aiming to over-the-top impress, add all the butter. But the risotto was completely fantastic with 6 (yes, 6) tablespoons cut out.

I also have adapted the CI recipe so it could be pasted in full here. Cut the chicken breasts in half to make cutlets. This stretches your chicken to feed more people, not to mention cut back on how much you eat.

Here’s the original recipes for those who want to follow them faithfully: Buttery Barley Risotto with Parmesan (Epicurious); Chicken Francese (Cooks Illustrated $).

Mushroom Barley Risotto

* 6 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, pressed
* 2 cups pearled barley
* 2 portobello mushroom caps, diced
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* minced herbs like parsley or basil for garnish, if you please


1. Bring all of the broth to simmer a saucepan.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan or small dutch oven over medium heat.

3. Saute onion and garlic for about 4 minutes, until soft.

4. Add barley and stir to coat with butter.

5. Add 1/2 cup broth at a time, allowing broth to be almost totally absorbed before adding more. Stir often — the whole process takes about 45 minutes.

6. When about 1 cup broth remains, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil or butter in a small saute pan and add diced mushrooms and some salt. Cook mushrooms until soft, about 5 minutes.

7. After all the broth has been absorbed, off the heat. Pour the cooked mushrooms and any juice they created into the risotto.

8. Add salt, pepper, and all of the parmesan. Stir it up. Serve, and garnish if you please.

Chicken Francese

* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 small onion , minced
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 vermouth (white wine can be used)
* juice from 2 lemons
* 2 1/4 c chicken broth
* 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally into thin cutlets and pounded to uniform thinness
* 3/4 c flour
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 egg
* 1 tbl milk
* 2 tbl olive oil
* Pinch minced fresh parsley leaves


1. Make the sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon butter small saute pan and add onion. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add flour and stir until light golden brown, about 1 minute. Whisk in vermouth, lemon juice, and broth; increase heat to high and bring to boil, whisking until mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Strain sauce through mesh strainer, and set aside.

3. Whisk together flour, salt, and pepper in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk eggs and milk until combined. Season both sides of each cutlet with salt and pepper.

4. Coat cutlets in seasoned flour; dip in egg mixture and return to flour.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; Cook cutlets until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

6. Reheat sauce if necessary; whisk in parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken.
The longest step here is the risotto, which kind of has to be babysit while you keep adding the broth. But towards the end, start on the chicken. It’s fairly simple but makes a bit of a mess.


4 responses to “What’s in my cupboard? Freaking deliciousness

  1. mmm…deliciousness
    now I can finally try some!

  2. If you’re looking for more things to do with barley I recommend the barley salad in how to cook everything vegetarian – http://cheesecloth.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/a-god-among-grains/

    perfect for summer, too.

  3. I’d love to try this, but what is “1 vermouth”? I presume a measurement of some sort is missing?

  4. Oops! That’s supposed to say one half cup vermouth

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