Barley contains a kind of starch that feels rich and creamy on the tongue and makes this festive dish moist and reminiscent of a Thanksgiving stuffing. Needless to say, it goes well with roast chicken or turkey. Unlike a traditional stuffing that is oven-baked for an hour or more, this one cooks in about 7 minutes on top of the stove—thanks to the quick-cooking barley flakes.
Yield: Serves 4
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cups barley flakes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Set a heavy 2-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pecans and toast until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Tip the nuts out of the pot onto a chopping board.
Add the barley flakes to the pot and toast, stirring frequently, until the flakes are aromatic, about 2 minutes. Push the barley aside. Add the butter to the empty side of the pot, and as it melts, stir in the fennel seeds. Let them sizzle in the butter for 30 seconds or so. Then stir the butter into the flakes.
Stir in the broth, cranberries, and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes. If the flakes aren’t tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in a few tablespoons of water, cover, and continue cooking until done.
Chop the pecans coarsely and stir them into the barley. Add salt and pepper to taste.
• Use rolled oats, spelt, or Kamut flakes instead of barley flakes.
• Try dried cherries, raisins, or dried currants instead of cranberries.
• Press portions of the pilaf into a coffee cup or ramekin and unmold onto plates.