Smoked bacon, pearl barley and chicken cassoulet
This inexpensive heart warming winter dish is a true home-made favourite of mine. It combines cooking techniques from two great cultures, Italy and France. It is not a true cassoulet but a very loose interpretation of the French classic, cooked in an Italian risotto style. The reason I love this type of recipe so much is the concept can be applied to any type of ingredients and combinations to suit your tastes, your budget and what’s available at your local market.
|1||Carrot, small, peeled and cut in half|
|600 g||Bacon bones, smoked|
|1 stick||Celery, cut in half|
|1||Onion, small, peeled and cut in half|
|1||Bay leaf, fresh or dried|
|3 Tbsp||Canola oil|
|2||Chicken breasts, large|
|1 tsp||Fine salt|
|2 cups||Mushrooms, diced|
|2 cloves||Garlic, grated|
|½ cup||Carrot, small diced|
|½ cup||Onion, small diced|
|½ cup||Celery, small diced|
|½ cup||Red wine|
|1½ cups||Pearl barley, washed in cold water|
|1 Tbsp||Fresh thyme, sliced|
|1 Ltr||Stock, made from bacon bones|
|1 Tbsp||Fresh parsley, sliced|
|1 Tbsp||Fresh basil, sliced|
|¼ cup||Butter, cold, diced|
|½ cup||Parmesan cheese, finely grated|
Fried crispy breadcrumbs
- Place bones in a pot and cover with water. Add halved vegetables and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, skim off any impurities that rise to the top and gently simmer for 2 hours. Strain and reserve stock, pick the meat off the bones and reserve until needed.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt on both sides and fry in a hot pan with some oil until golden brown all over. Remove from the pan, turn the heat up, add a little extra oil then fry the mushrooms until caramelised. Remove from the pan.
- Add the garlic, carrot, onion and celery and gently fry until lightly caramelised. Add the wine and reduce until almost evaporated. Add the barley and cover with hot stock. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes. Place the chicken breasts on top of the barley and cook for a further 10 minutes. At this stage all the stock will be absorbed into the barley.
- Remove chicken breasts, dice and return to pan with mushrooms and picked bacon meat. Bring back up to a simmer, adding a little extra boiling stock so the consistency is slightly wet. Fold in fresh herbs, butter and parmesan and season with freshly ground black pepper and extra salt if necessary.
- Serve in pre-warmed, individual ramequins or pie dishes and top with fried crispy breadcrumbs.
Fried crispy breadcrumbs
- Blitz the bread in a food processor
- Heat the canola oil until hot in a large frying pan
- Add the butter and crumbs and stir with a fork until lightly golden.
- Tip into a fine sieve, spread crumbs on paper towels to cool, season with sea salt flakes.