January is barley month for us. Like most everyone else, we are trying to be more economical in our spending, and barley is a good thing. It is cheap, filling, and extra comforting on a cold, wet afternoon.
The food supply requires a lot more imagination come January. We ate the last of the onions the other day. We still have spaghetti squash, butternut squash, pumpkins and potatoes. Plenty of meat. But we are getting hungry for green stuff.
I found a package of okra in the freezer this weekend! Joy! We always love okra and other green things, but when found in the back of the freezer while scrambling for food options, it seemed like a bag of precious gold.
Yesterday for Sunday dinner we had our grass-finished chuck roast cooked with barley, carrots and sauteed okra. What a feast. We were so hungry we didn't leave many left-overs. Rachel's mother-in-law's bread and butter pickles went especially well with the roast. Chuck is one of my favorite cuts of beef. Plenty of marbling, even in grass-fed, and it does beautifully with a nice long braise in the oven while we go to church.
Here is my recipe:
Place butter, chopped onions, celery and garlic in roasting pan and put in a hot (450) oven while you sear the roast in a cast iron skillet. When the onions start to smell good, add 2 cups of rinsed barley, some thyme and plenty of sea salt. By this time your beef should be nice and crusty on both sides. Put the beef on top of the barley, add a bay leaf, some pepper corns and sea salt. Pour at least a half gallon of water on top of everything. I think some red wine would be great, but we had already drunk all of ours. Put the roasting pan back in the hot oven and leave the temperature up high for around 25 minutes. Then drop the temperature to 325 degrees for at least 2 -2 1/2 hours. If you need to be away longer than that, set the temperature to 300 degrees.
While the roast and barley cook, go to church, go take a walk, or read a book. Your house will smell like someone loves you.
You will want to eat the crispy little bits of barley around the edge of the pan while no one else is watching. Yum.
I wonder why we eat so little barley? Cheap comfort food that tastes like a feast. Maybe next Sunday we will have barley mushroom casserole. Or barley and lentil stew.
BTW, the deluge last night left streams swollen and angry. It also washed away the cold, dreary clouds and left warm sunny skies. For the moment, anyway. It was strange milking in the balmy 45 degrees this morning. Felt like March. We better not get too comfortable with this spring-like tease. We have weeks of winter to go.
And we won't complain! (or if we do, we will try to stop and pray for others in more miserable conditions, and thank God for warm, dry beds and running water.)