Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bad Barley

A few months ago, the family celebrated my in-laws' wedding anniversary at an Italian restaurant called L'Orcio in New Haven. The food was sublime. One dish I especially loved was a barley salad. It was nutty and infused with herbs and other good stuff, a wonderful appetizer.

Ever since, I have been trying to recreate the dish. The results have been consistent -- horrible. The gain either comes out crunchy or gummy. Oh, and did I mention that results tasted like pebbled cardboard?

It seems so simple. Just simmer barley in water or chicken stock. But it never comes out right.

My trusty Williams & Sonoma kitchen guide tells me that barley is one of the world's oldest grains, but is today used primarily in the making of Scotch whiskey. The entry says that is a shame because it lends itself to "delicious preparations."


Sunday night, I was making chicken with wine, garlic, rosemary and thyme and decided to give barley one more try. I chose a complicated recipe that called for toasting the barley in olive oil and butter, gradually adding water to cook it and finishing it with Peccorino Romano. Jam that flavor in. Sounded great in theory.

In practice, another disaster. The final product was sticky, half done and tasteless, even with the cheese. I had to bake a couple of potatoes in the microwave for a quick starch.

No wonder it's only used for Scotch these days. My hat's off to anyone who can make these little pearls of flavorlessness shine.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe you could write to Gourmet and ask them to get the restaurant's recipe. Oh, wait. Rats.