Barley is a wonderful versatile grain with a rich nutty flavor and a pasta like texture. Raw barley looks like wheat berries. After you cook it barley looks a lot like Arborio rice. Tricky, tricky changing your appearance like that barley! But barley has so many health benefits (read about them here) I won’t hold the appearance switcheroo against it.
Besides, if I did, I would be missing out on this quick but fancy shrimp and barley recipe.
Barley is such a great addition to your diet I thought it would be interesting to replace the traditional Arborio rice with barely in this risotto recipe.
Leeks are related to onions and garlic and are one of my favorite summer vegetables. The leeks give the whole concoction a nice twist. I decided to use shrimp as protein since we typically include at least one source of grain, vegetable, and protein in our recipes/meals. If you peel the shrimps yourself, leave the tail on for a nice presentation.
Tip: If you don’t have shrimp on hand or if it is cost prohibitive because shrimp are not in season you can still make this recipe by replacing the shrimp with another piece of fish like salmon, tuna or your favorite fish.
Shrimp and Barley Risotto Recipe
You will need:
For the shrimp:
3 1/2 cups of medium size shrimp (peeled and deveined)
3 teaspoons chopped thyme plus a bit more for garnish
Sea salt and pepper to taste
For the barley:
½ large diced onion
1 clove of minced garlic
2 cups sliced leeks
1 ½ cup of pearl barley
3 cups of water
3 cups of chicken stock (either store pot or follow my crock pot chicken stock recipe here)
1½ tablespoons of butter (either cow’s milk or diary free butter)
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese (either cow’s milk or diary free cheese)
1. Wash the barley and let it soak for 2 to 3 hours in 3 cups of water.
2. Melt the butter in a stockpot with the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, sauté on low to medium heat for 2 minutes or until the onions soften.
3. Add the leeks to the pan and mix well. Cook on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Then season with salt to taste.
4. Drain the water from the barley.
5. Add the barley to the the leek mixture and mix it well so all ingredients are well coated with butter and oil.
6. Add 1/3 of the chicken stock to the mixture and bring it to a soft boil.
7. Turn the boiling mixture to a simmer and stir it regularly until the barley absorbs the chicken stock. Add add more chicken stock when this happens. Keep on stirring and adding stock regularly until the barley mixture absorbs all of the stock.
8. Add the Parmesan cheese to the barley mixture and mix it through. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep it warm. The barley should be cooked but still a have some bite to it.
9. Time to cook the shrimp! If your shrimp are not deveined (it looks like a black line running along the back of a shrimp) remove the dorsal vein by making an incision along the back of the shrimp and removing the dorsal vein for each piece of shrimp if you are using fresh. I am using frozen shrimp because I live in Ohio.
10. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper and chopped thyme and sauté the shrimp in olive oil and butter on high heat. This will take about 1 minute. Do not over cook the shrimp or they will become rubbery. Guess how I know?
11. Remove the shrimp from the heat and serve by placing some barley and leek mix on your plate first and top it with the shrimp. If you serving this recipe for a dinner party call Step 12 “plating.’ If you are serving this recipe for regular dinner call Step 12 “dinner is ready help yourself.”
12. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. Optional but it is a nice touch if you want to be fancy.
Extra meal and dollar stretching tip I got from a real chef friend: do not throw away the heads of the shrimp if you need to peel, devein, and remove the heads from the shrimp you are using in this recipe!
You can add an extra crunch (and possibly use less shrimp in the recipe depending upon the size) by flavoring the shrimp heads with a little turmeric powder, coating them in cornstarch and deep frying those babies before adding them to the finished dish.
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