I’ve been in a cooking rut lately. Potential reasons are plentiful, and include the usual suspects of laziness, winter, quarter life crisis etc. Bottom line is that I hope/believe the following dish represents my departure from said rut.
Many moons ago, I watched Michael ‘Chef At Home’ Smith make a barley risotto with asparagus. The restaurant where I work recently featured a seafood barley risotto, which reminded me of Smith’s dish which had been at the back of my mind/intentions. I decided to combine the two dishes into a sea bass, green bean and kale barley risotto which satisfied deeply.
I used: 1 onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 sea bass fillets, 2 bay leaves, approx 1.5 cups each of left-over white wine and milk, 4 cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of barley, 2 handfuls stemmed and sliced green beans, 4 large chopped kale leaves, a few lemon wedges, and as much black pepper and red chili flakes as you enjoy.
Heat 4 cups of chicken stock in a saucepan on the hob. Meanwhile poach sea bass in milk with a splash of chicken stock, black pepper and bay leaves in a large frying pan with lid until just cooked through (this takes hardly any time, 5-7 mins). Once it’s ready, remove the fish from poaching liquid.
Fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy pot on medium-high heat. After approx. 5 mins add garlic along with chili flakes and black pepper. Once all is translucent, add barley and fry until the grain is toasted and begins releasing a lovely nutty aroma. Pour in wine (*vodka would be a delicious substitute). Keep an eye on the mixture and stir occasionally. Once the barley soaks up all the wine, add the fish’s poaching liquid (bay leaves included) and again, watch/stir until all liquid is absorbed. You will now need to, in rounds, add several ladles of stock and periodically stir until all liquid is soaked up by the barley. The little babies will expand and soften as they drink up the liquid/love you add. It will take several rounds of stock/water until the barley has the density/texture you’d like (I believe the grains should be fairly al dente). To ensure my dinner was not too salty, I alternated rounds of stock and water. This may not be necessary if you use a nice/good stock instead of the bouillon cubes I had on hand at home.
Once the barley is suitably cooked, add the green beans and flaked fish, and stir until all is warm. Finally add and stir in the kale, and hit the whole mess with squeezes from lemon wedges until it tastes bright and delicious.