Beef, Mushroom, and Barley Pilaf

It may sound a bit odd to call a barley dish a pilaf but I figured that if one can make a barley risotto there was no reason to not make a pilaf with it as well. Barley is, sadly, a much neglected grain in this country except by microbreweries (the national breweries use malted barley as well but adulterate it with corn or rice which is why they are generally not fit to drink). Beef, mushroom, and barley soup was very popular at one time and is still a staple for many home cooks. In this dish I sought to bring the flavors of that soup to a more substantial meal. The trick to a pilaf like this is to build it up bit by bit making sure that each ingredient is properly cooked before adding the next. The preparation will take you half an hour to forty-five minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup, about 4 ounces, pearled barley
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 pound beef cut into 1-inch cubes, I used sirloin because it is what I had on hand
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional but recommended)
  • Butter or oil as needed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups beef or other brown stock, I used lamb stock because it was what I had

Method

Rinse the barley well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the beef cubes in a single layer. Brown well, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350° (325° for convection).

Reduce heat to medium low, adjust the fat in the pot and add the onions, carrot, and celery. Sweat gently for about 10 minutes. (Sweating is similar to sautéing but at a lower heat because the object is to soften the vegetables and express their liquid without browning them.) Add the mushrooms and garlic, if using, to the pot along with a bit of butter or oil if needed. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. of salt to help the mushroom release their liquid. Continue to cook gently for another 9 or 10 minutes. Return the beef to pot and add the barley and stock. Season with a generous grind of black pepper. Stir to combine, raise heat, and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the hot oven for about 30 minutes or until most of the stock has been absorbed.

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