Hazelnut Smoked Chicken Barley Risotto

   After doing Hazelnut Smoked Chicken yesterday, I was inspired to do a couple of dishes with it immediately. Today I’m going to spread that inspiration over two separate posts. The first is Hazelnut Smoked Chicken Barley Risotto. Traditional risotto is done with a short grain Italian rice (arborio or carnaroli), but any short grain can be used if you follow the same method. The slow stirring of small amounts of  broth repeatedly can be applied to barley. It does take longer since it takes longer to cook no matter the method you use. I find the extra effort to do a barley risotto is worth it. It develops a much richer, heartier flavour that is perfect for the cooler temperatures of winter.

Hazelnut Smoked Chicken Barley Risotto

8 cups chicken stock (I use homemade)

2 Hazelnut Smoked Chicken wings

2 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

1 medium August Organics onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp salt

1 cup Gold Forest Grains pearl barley

1/2 cup The Cheesiry chili pecorino, shredded

   In a large pot, add the stock and smoked wings. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep the wings in the stock to infuse as you start the risotto.

   In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil, onions and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir and sauté, gradually reducing the heat as the onions start to brown. Continue to stir and scrap as the colour becomes a deeper brown. Add a 1/4 cup of water and stir to uniformly spread the caramelized colour over the onions. Normally, with a risotto, you don’t want to add colour to the onions, simply soften them, but in this case the added caramel sweetness will compliment the intense earthiness of the barley and smoked chicken flavours.

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   Add the dry barley to the pan and stir with the caramelized onions over medium high heat to lightly toast the grains and infuse them with the onion flavour.

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   Ladle in 1/2 cup of the smoked chicken wing-infused stock and begin to stir to incorporate the stock gradually into the barley. The stock should absorb after about 5-7 minutes of stirring. Continue to add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until the barley is to your desired softness. It can take upwards of 60-75 minutes depending on how soft you like your risotto. I usually go for just over an hour so there’s a bit of toothsome bite to the grain.

   Remove the wings from the last bit of broth left (I usually use between 7-1/2 and 8 cups of stock). Shred the meat from the wing bones. Discard the skin and bones and fold the meat into the risotto.

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   Once the shredded smoked chicken is folded in, slowly work in the shredded pecorino.

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   Risotto should be loose, but not soupy. If you need to add another 1/4 cup of stock after adding the cheese to loosen the texture then do so. Season with the remaining salt to taste. Serves 4 as a multi-course dish or serves 2 as a main.

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   Note: I realize that most people may find smoking your own chicken, then subsequently doing a barley risotto rather arduous. If you want to save a step, you can buy smoked chicken from a local barbecue place and do the risotto with that. In Edmonton, we have a couple of great places for barbecue, like Sloppy Hoggs or Smokehouse BBQ among others.

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