Barley with Walnuts, Butternut and Stilton

Serves

This is a risotto-style dish but made with healthy pearled barley instead of rice. Chunks of roasted butternut squash, creamy Stilton cheese,  walnuts and a walnut-infused stock add great depth of flavor. Finished with a drizzle of port wine reduction, it's a delicious and nutritious first course.

Note: this recipe has a 6-hour (or overnight) soak as its first step, so plan accordingly.


Ingredients

1 1/4 cups walnut pieces
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
6 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups tawny port
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 clove Earthbound Farm Organic Garlic (large clove, finely minced)
2/3 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup white wine
2/3 cup crumbled Stilton cheese (divided)
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 pounds Earthbound Farm Organic Butternut Squash (peeled, seeded and cut into 1/3-inch dice)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted walnut halves (as garnish)
  Leaves of mature arugula, for serving


Directions

Combine the walnut pieces and 1-1/2 cups of hot water in a small bowl and let the mixture sit for 6 hours or overnight.

Strain the soaked walnuts through a sieve and discard the soaking water. Transfer the walnuts to a saucepan and add 3 cups of water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the walnuts for 15 minutes. Strain again, discarding the cooking liquid. Return the walnuts to the pan and add the 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil, then transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend on medium speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and process for 3 or 4 minutes. The mixture will be very hot; be sure to secure the blender so the lid doesn’t fly off! Strain the blended mixture into a clean pan, discarding any solids. Set aside.

To make the port sauce, place the canola oil in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften, about 2 minutes. Add the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, star anise and cinnamon stick to the pan, along with the 1 cup of chicken stock. Reduce the liquid to about 1/2 cup and add the port. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, then strain, returning the liquid to a small pan and discarding the spices. Ccontinue cooking the sauce over medium heat until it reduces to about 2/3 cup. Set aside. Make-Ahead Tip: The sauce can be made up to this point and refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days before continuing.

For the barley, bring the reserved walnut stock to a simmer. Place the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a small dish.

Wipe out the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the barley and toast the grains, stirring constantly for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the reserved shallot-garlic mixture to the barley and pour in the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of walnut stock, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat, adding the stock in 1/2 cup increments, until the barley is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. If you run out of walnut stock before the barley is tender, substitute chicken stock or water. When the barley is cooked, stir in another 1/2 cup of stock, half of the Stilton and the butter.

Meanwhile, while the barley is cooking, arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Toss the cubed butternut with the 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and maple syrup. Transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the cubes in a single layer so that they don’t touch. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the cubes with a spatula and continue baking until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes more. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

To serve, reheat the port sauce and add the red currant jelly, stirring until it dissolves. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more port.

Divide the barley among 4 heated plates. Garnish each serving with some of the roasted butternut, walnut halves and a sprinkle of the remaining Stilton. Tuck a few arugula leaves around each serving, then spoon some of the port sauce around the base of the barley and top with another drizzle. Serve hot.

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