I like the mushrooms to blend into the dish, so I keep them small enough to be the same size as the barley when it's all cooked, but chunky mushrooms can be nice sometimes too. I used a mix of shiitake and cremini, but anything works. Before I went shopping for the ingredients, I originally planned on using tarragon; then decided that since I'm still purchasing herbs until the garden gets further along thyme would probably be more useful for other dishes so it doesn't go to waste. When I got to the store, all they had was tarragon. Hmpff ... either works well.
4 cups mushrooms, diced or chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
3 large shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
3/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Veggie or chicken stock (4-5 cups), warmed
Olive Oil / Butter / S&P
In a wide, shallow pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter. Saute the mushrooms until brown. I'm a chronic pan-shaker, so I try to walk away to avoid temptation! Toss in the tarragon and a teaspoon of salt, mix together, then transfer to a bowl.
In the same pan, add another Tbsp each of olive oil and butter. Add the shallots and garlic, saute. Add the barley and stir to coat. Toast the barley for one minute. Add the wine and lemon juice to deglaze the pan - this is a good time to scrape up any yummy bits of mushroom or onion.
Start adding the stock at about a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir between additions just enough to incorporate the barley with the liquids. When the barley is cooked, add another 1/2 cup of liquid to keep the overall texture creamy and loose.
Add the mushrooms back in, then stir in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste) and another dab of butter. Season with salt and pepper.