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Pearl Barley Risotto with Chicken and Leeks

This is a delicious new take on risotto: barley sports a nutty flavor and toothsome heartiness that rice could never produce. We love the savory mix of leeks, mushrooms, and chicken. Plus, unlike traditional risotto, the stock is added all at once — this is no fiddley ladle-after-ladle production! Serve a bright green steamed veg on the side and dinner is done in a snap.

Pearl Barley Risotto with Chicken and Leeks

3 tbs. olive oil
9 oz. button mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 tbs. butter
2 leeks, washed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
1½ cups pearl barley
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper

Heat half the olive oil in a  large pan and cook the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes, until they are just browned and beginning to lose their juices. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining oil and the butter to the pan and stir in the leeks. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and the chicken. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the barley and the thyme. Add the white wine and cook gently until absorbed. Add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so, until the barley is soft and just al dente. Add a bit more stock if it seems dry. Stir the mushrooms back into the pot, then taste and season with salt and lots of black pepper. Top with Parmesan to serve.

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