By Joe Yonan
Risotto has long gotten a bad rap, with a reputation for fussiness – that whole stand-over-the-pot-and-stir thing – that has never really been accurate. It’s a much more easygoing (and even forgiving) thing to make than many people seem to think.
Still, I always appreciate seeing different takes on the classic Italian dish that promise to make it even more approachable, especially from other cultures. In his lovely new cookbook, “Fresh From Poland,” Michal Korkosz includes a version that uses barley instead of short-grain rice, cider instead of wine, and soft goat cheese in addition to the requisite Parm. The vegetable of choice is asparagus.
Barley Risotto With Asparagus, Cider and Goat Cheese (Serves 4-6)
- 3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 bunch (450g) asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2,5cm pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry hard cider, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup (28g) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon (28g) soft goat cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the barley, cover and decrease the heat to low. Cook without stirring, until the liquid has been mostly absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered.
While the barley is cooking, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until nearly soft, about 4 minutes. Add the asparagus and garlic and cook, stirring from time to time, until they start to turn golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pick out and transfer the tips of the asparagus to a separate bowl. (You will use them for serving.)
Stir in the cooked barley and place the skillet over high heat. Add the cider, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the barley thickens and absorbs most of the liquid but is still a little soupy, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan, goat cheese and lemon zest. Stir in the salt and pepper, taste, and add more of each if needed. If you prefer a looser risotto, add more cider.