Barley does a shockingly convincing imitation of arborio rice.
The key to getting that texture is using pearled barley, which is hulled and polished. Regular hulled barley won’t yield and give up enough starch to create the creamy texture the word “risotto” implies. Wild mushrooms are great here, but the dish is just as good with humble button or cremini mushrooms.
Wild Mushroom Barley Risotto
- 1 pound mushrooms, divided
- 1 onion
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups pearled barley, rinsed
- 1 cup white wine
- 6 cups mushroom, vegetable or chicken broth
- 6 ounces taleggio cheese
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Clean and trim the mushrooms. Mince half of them and slice the other half; keep the two groups separate. Peel and finely chop the onion.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan or small pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the minced mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.
- Add the barley and stir to combine everything. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed or evaporated, about 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, partially cover, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes. Chop the taleggio and stir it into the barley to melt.
- While the barley cooks, peel and mince the garlic. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently until the mushrooms give off their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and stir to melt. Stir in the thyme and take off the heat. Set aside.
- Serve the barley hot, garnished with the sautéed mushrooms.