Barley ‘Risotto’ (with Timesavers and Benefits for Homemade Chicken Broth)

Barley Risotto

Lately there is a proliferation of beautiful farmer’s market finds across the Internet and social media, and for good reason – the gorgeous produce of Spring is certainly photo-inspiring!   But I think there is a year-round, unsung hero of the farmer’s market, and that’s fresh chicken.  In addition to tasting noticeably more delicious, a favorite benefit of using fresh, organic, local chicken is the homemade broth that you can make with it, and knowing that the chicken is truly free from harmful additives and roamed free relatively close to my home gives me a certain comfort level when it comes to boiling down the carcass.  A key reason homemade broth is such a staple in our household is that it truly does elevate recipes from sauces to soups to grains.  (Another important reason is that buying never frozen, organic local chicken is more expensive, and really using the entirety of the bird makes it totally economically justifiable.  Lastly, it reduces food waste!)  One of my favorite uses is it to make a barley ‘risotto’ (in quotes since risotto is the actual type of rice that’s used in risotto dishes) and the flavors you can infuse into a homemade broth take a frankly card-boardey if highly nutritious grain to a very palatable level.  (I have taken to using lemons as a flavorer of the broth to bring a brighter, lighter feeling to the broth, more on that in a moment.)

All of the above being said!  Making homemade chicken broth every time can be a time consuming commitment.  Having made it several times over this past winter, I managed to find some time savers and wanted to share.  I’ve talked before about making the broth right after the chicken is done roasting if possible, and I do still think that saves time because there is less in and out of the fridge, you can prepare the broth base right as the chicken roasts and you do just one major clean up.  That’s not always realistic though, esp if you’re having roasted chicken for dinner and would prefer to relax afterwards (which I’m assuming counts just about all of us.)  But!  I’ve discovered broth ‘kits’, which is when you make the foundation for your broth right when you’re prepping the roasted chicken so that you’re set up to make the broth later with ready-prepped ingredients.

For example lets say you’re making a roast chicken that’s dressed with lemons, leeks, garlic and thyme.  While you’re washing and chopping the items for use with the chicken, you simply wash and chop a few more and save them use in the broth.  You pull everything from the fridge just once, use the cutting board and knife just once, and clean a few fewer times.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do this sooner – I think because  I read in Bill Buford’s Heat that the Italian grandmother only cuts into an onion right when it’s time to cook it.  It’s a good concept but I finally decided that since we’re talking about boiling the vegetables in water for a matter of hours, no one will know if they’ve been pre-sliced.  And since by design homemade broth must be made within two days *max* of the chicken being roasted, the pre-cut veggies will be fine for this use if stored in the fridge.

Anyway – homemade chicken broth is worth it and I think by incorporating timesavers like this one not terribly daunting from a time management perspective.  Below is a recipe that incorporates leeks and lemons, but the same concept of course applies across several vegetables used to dress roasted chicken.

Barley 'Risotto' and Homemade Chicken Broth

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Hands-On Time:  35 – 45 minutes

Special Equipment:  For Homemade Chicken Broth: Mesh strainer  For Barley Risotto: Medium (about 4-quarts) saucepan


For the Broth:

  • Roasted Chicken Carcass with meat removed
  • Three Leeks, trimmed, rinsed and cut into 2-3″ pieces
  • 2-3 Lemons, quartered
  • Fresh thyme, sage, or both
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, peeled, trimmed and halved
  • Salt & pepper

Barley Risotto Stock Kit

For the Barley Risotto:

  • 4 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Dried Barley pearls
  • 1 Yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 & 1/2 Tsp Butter


The Broth:

  • Make your homemade broth ‘kit’ as mentioned above as an extension of the dressing for your roasted chicken – place the leeks, lemons & herbs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate.
  • When ready, remove kit from fridge and unwrap.
  • Place the contents of the kit and the chicken carcass into the stockpot with enough water to float or just cover the chicken, 6-8 cups.
  • Cover, and bring to a boil, then let simmer 1&1/2 – 2 hours.
  • Bring to a boil one last time, then kill the head and remove the cover.
  • Position a large bowl in the sink under a colander.  Pour contents of the stock pot into the colander.  Then, lift the colander so that the liquid flows freely into the bowl below.
  • Next, set the metal strainer over a second bowl.  Pour the liquid caught in the first bowl over the metal strainer to remove bits and bobs – tiny pieces of chicken, pepper, herbs, etc.  You will be left with smooth, delicious homemade broth!
  • Store in airtight containers in the freezer for up to three months, or, place broth in a saucepan over low heat on the stove top for immediate use!

The Barley Risotto:

  • Place chicken broth in a 4-quart saucepan over low heat.
  • Heat butter in the large frying pan over medium heat until melted.
  • Add the finely chopped yellow onion and saute until turning transparent, about five minutes.
  • Add the barley and stir to coat with the butter/onion mixture.
  • Working one ladle at a time, add warmed broth to the pan.  Stir and evaluate to make sure that barley is *just* covered by the broth.  Simmer until broth is mostly absorbed.
  • Repeat the broth ladling process until barley is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

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