Archive for the ‘Season 10’ Category

It’s super cold and snowy here and I’ve really been wanting to get a blog post done. I honestly wrote some of this post a few weeks ago, but then I had some health issues that prevented me from finishing it at the time. I won’t go into detail, but 2021 has not been my favorite year. Here’s hoping that 2022 is much better!

We recently had the opportunity to see Alton’s live show, which was super fun. We had previously seen him two other times and both times we were pleasantly surprised by the hilarity of the live shows; that’s not to say that Alton hasn’t been funny on Good Eats, but just that the humor in his live shows has been kicked up a couple notches. I was curious to see how this show would compare to his others, especially since he has publicly stated that this will be his last touring show; I would highly recommend that you catch his show if you so happen to have the chance.

After completing the recipes from this episode, I think it was safe to say that we met our dietary fiber recommendations for that week, as I cranked out all five recipes from Alton’s barley episode in the same week. I enjoy the episodes, such as this one, in which Alton truly demonstrates a multitude of uses for a particular ingredient. And, to make it more fun, barley is an ingredient that I do not regularly utilize.

Baked Barley

This recipe is sort of the stepping stone of the episode, as it is a basic recipe for baked barley that could then be used in myriad ways. Ideally, you will want to use hulled barley for this recipe, but I had to settle for pearled barley. What is the difference? Well, pearled barley has been polished to remove both its husk and bran layers, while hulled barley has only had the outermost husk removed. Hulled barley is more nutritious and takes longer to cook. Still, this recipe seemed to work just fine for the pearled barley I used.

To make baked barley, put 1 C barley in a 1.5 quart lidded casserole dish, along with 1 t Kosher salt, 1 T butter, and 2 C of boiling water. Stir, cover the dish tightly with foil, and place the lid on top of the foil. Bake the barley at 375 for an hour.

Immediately upon removing the barley from the oven, remove the lid/foil and gently fluff the barley with chopsticks or a large fork.

Barley before and after fluffing.

You can serve the barley immediately or you can refrigerate it for later use. Or, you can use it to make a…

Barley Salad

For this salad, you’ll need to prepare a batch of Alton’s baked barley, as written above. To make the dressing, whisk 2 T extra virgin olive oil with 3 T fresh orange juice.

Add a batch of Alton’s baked barley (cooked and cooled), a julienned head of fennel, 1/4 C of toasted pine nuts, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, 1/2 C cooked/crumbled bacon, 2 T chopped parsley, and Kosher salt/black pepper (to taste).

Alton’s barley salad.

We enjoyed this salad, though the orange juice was almost unidentifiable. I found that adding additional orange juice really jazzed this salad up a few notches. I also found it necessary to add quite a lot of Kosher salt. I would certainly make this again, especially as a dinner side or a lunch salad.

Barley and Lamb Stew

Where we live, at least, it is certainly stew weather. I view lamb as a very polarizing ingredient, as people seem to either love or despise lamb, with very little in between. I happen to greatly enjoy lamb, so this stew was enticing from the get-go. This recipe begins with trimming/cubing 2 pounds of lamb shoulder. Add pinches of Kosher salt and pepper to the lamb cubes, along with 1 T flour. Toss the lamb to thoroughly coat in the flour.

Cubed lamb shoulder tossed with Kosher salt, pepper, and flour.

Heat a 4-5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, adding 1/2 T olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add ~ a third of the meat, browning on all sides. Remove the meat as it browns, and brown the remaining meat in two batches.

When all of the meat has browned and been removed from the pan, add more oil (if needed), 3 sliced carrots, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the carrots until they have some color.

Carrots and Kosher salt added to pot to cook until golden.

Add the lamb back to the pan, along with 1 C of barley grits (we ground barley to a grit-like consistency), and a quart of chicken broth or stock. Bring the stew to a boil, add a cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the lamb falls apart.

Serve the stew with fresh oregano.

Alton’s barley and lamb stew.

This lamb stew was good, but not Earth-shattering. I would call this stew simple but tasty. I would recommend serving this stew the day it is made, as it becomes overly thick/congealed when refrigerated and reheated. We ate this stew with a side of…

Barley Bread

When making Alton’s barley bread, you will need 10 ounces of barley flour; you can either purchase this ingredient or you can mill the flour yourself from 10.5 oz of barley. Either way, place the flour in a bowl with 2.5 T baking powder and 1 t Kosher salt, whisking to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 2 T honey. Add 1/4 C canola/vegetable oil and 1 C milk.

Once the wet ingredients are combined, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring to combine; since barley is low in gluten, you can thoroughly stir this dough without making it tough.

Pour the dough into a lubed Dutch oven and cook it for 35-40 minutes, uncovered, over a gas grill that has been preheated on low for 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, which is what I did. Regardless of cooking method, seek an internal temperature of 190 degrees.

Cutting the barley bread.
A slice of barley bread, served here alongside Oktoberfest soup.

We enjoyed this bread, which was slightly sweet and nutty. The crumb is very crumbly, so don’t expect a bread that holds together tightly when sliced. I also found that this loaf stuck to my Dutch oven, so I used a dinner knife multiple times to free the edges of the loaf from the pan. I then used Alton’s tip of placing a paper plate on top of the loaf before inverting the loaf onto the plate. Eventually, this worked, though I did have some cracking and breaking at the edges of the loaf. I find this to be a good weekday bread to pair with soup; we ate it alongside an Oktoberfest-style soup.

Barley Water

The final recipe of this episode is one I immediately recognized as being included in Alton’s “EveryDayCook” cookbook. I figured then that this must be an Alton favorite. Barley water, by the way, is a beverage that is traditionally served at Wimbledon. To make it, heat 1 C hulled barley in 2 quarts water over high heat until boiling. Decrease the heat and simmer the barley for 30 minutes.

While the barley simmers, use a vegetable peeler to zest two lemons into a pitcher, also adding their juice. Stir in 1/4 C honey.

Strain the liquid from the cooked barley into the pitcher, stirring to combine. Refrigerate the barley water until it is sufficiently chilled before serving.

Barley water after straining liquid into the pitcher.
A glass of chilled barley water.

Although we were not enjoying this beverage in the midst of warm weather, I can still say that it is very refreshing. The predominant flavor in this drink is lemon, and particularly the slightly bitter flavor of lemon zest. I would maybe consider decreasing the amount of lemon zest here with hopes of less bitterness. Since I have never consumed any other barley water I cannot say whether this level of bitterness is typical; perhaps it also depends somewhat on the actual lemons you use? That said, I legitimately liked Alton’s barley water and I plan to make it again when the season again turns to warmth.

Some episodes of Good Eats end up being easier than others. This particular episode turned out to be a bit of a pain. Although there were only two recipes in this episode, I had to make the first recipe several times, so it ended up taking me a few weeks to complete the cooking portion. Anyway, I tried the recipes therein, and here’s how they worked for me.

Corn Tortillas

When I have had the opportunity to taste fresh, homemade tortillas, I have always found there to be a huge difference between them and the ones you can buy at the grocery store. I had never, however, attempted to make tortillas myself. Once again, I found this project to be pushing me to make a new food item at home. To make Alton’s corn tortillas, you’ll need dried field or flint corn, calcium hydroxide, and a tortilla press; I purchased all of these items through Amazon. The tortilla-making process takes two days, so you’ll also need to start this recipe the night before you plan to eat the tortillas.

To begin, rinse a pound of dried field or flint corn under cool water.

Place the drained corn in a stainless steel pot, along with 6 C water and 1/2 ounce of calcium hydroxide. Calcium hydroxide (which is alkaline), otherwise known as slaked lime/pickling lime/cal is used to cause the corn to undergo nixtamalization, which removes the hulls from the corn and releases its nutrients and amino acids. After combining the corn with the water and cal, slowly (over 30-40 minutes) bring the solution to a boil. Be sure to use a stainless steel pot and utensils when working with cal, as it can bleach wood and discolor other metal.

Once the solution has reached a boil, place a lid on the pot, remove it from the heat, and allow it to sit at room temperature overnight; it is crucial not to refrigerate the mixture, as cold will halt the desired chemical reaction. The following day, rinse the corn under lukewarm water for 5-6 minutes, rubbing the corn between your fingers to remove the hulls.

Next, soak the corn for two minutes in cold water. Drain the corn and soak it for an additional two minutes. I wore latex gloves when I handled the corn and I found it helpful to use a slotted spoon to remove the corn from the soaking water, as this left more of the hull pieces behind. The resulting corn you have now is called “nixtamal.”

Place the nixtamal in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it 10-15 times. Scrape the bowl with a spatula, add 2 T water, and pulse 8-10 more times. Add 2 T water and 1 t Kosher salt and pulse until the dough clumps together when squeezed, adding more water if necessary.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Dough after resting.

Next, portion the dough into balls, placing them under a damp towel; Alton said he did 1.5 ounce portions, but I found the balls to be too small for my tortilla press. I opted for two ounce portions. Alton used a griddle to cook his tortillas, but I just used a large sauté pan. Either way, you want your cooking vessel to be around 400 degrees, which is approximately when drops of water sizzle and dance away. If you want to keep your tortillas warm, you can place a tea towel on a heating pad. When ready to cook, use scissors to remove the sides and zipper of a Ziplock bag, and use the trimmed bag to line both sides of your tortilla press. Place a ball of dough slightly off-center in the press (toward the hinge side), press the ball with your hand to flatten gently, and then press completely with the tortilla press.

The tortilla may stick to the bag a bit, so flip the tortilla over and peel the bag off of the tortilla. Cook tortillas in the hot pan for about a minute per side. If big cracks form in your tortillas, you can try kneading more water into the dough, and then try again after another 30 minute dough rest. To refresh tortillas for later eating, spritz them with water, stack them in foil, and heat them for a few minutes in a 300 degree oven.

Okay, okay, so I wanted to like this recipe, but it was a complete dud for me. The first time I made the dough, my dough seemed crumbly in the food processor, so I added additional water. Yeah, that was a poor decision, as my dough became overly wet and sticky, and was impossible to work with. Into the trash, the dough went, and I had to start all over again several days later. The second time I made the dough, I did not add any additional water during the food processor portion of the recipe. The dough was still incredibly difficult to work with. I found that the dough stuck horribly to the plastic bag, so I tried spraying the bag with non-stick spray. That didn’t work. I also tried lining my press with both parchment and wax papers. Still, the dough stuck. Eventually, the system that seemed to work the best was to line the press with two pieces of parchment, pulling one sheet off and then flipping the tortilla into the pan, parchment side up. I would then try to gently peel the top piece of parchment off of the top of the tortilla, which almost always resulted in breaking the tortilla. If I was lucky, I would occasionally end up with a somewhat round tortilla.

Tortilla after pressing between parchment layers.

The corn aroma that filled our kitchen was wonderful and we used the tortillas from the second batch of dough to make tacos for dinner one night. The tortillas had rich corn flavor, but I did find them to be a bit too thick/chewy.

Tacos made with homemade tortillas.

When all was said and done, the effort:reward ratio just was too skewed with this recipe. Now that I have a tortilla press, I do plan to make homemade tortillas again, but I plan to try them next with storebought masa harina. Oh, and I did make a third batch of these tortillas to continue on to the second recipe of the episode, which was for:

Lime Tortilla Chips

Making Alton’s tortillas was such a pain but I still maintained high hopes for the lime tortilla chips Alton made on the show. To make a full batch of the chips, stack 10 fresh corn tortillas and cut them into quarters.

Tortillas cut into triangles for chips.

In a bowl, whisk together 1/4 C lime juice and 2 t Kosher salt. Dip both sides of each tortilla triangle into the lime/salt mixture and set the triangles on a rack to dry for one hour.

After an hour, fry the triangles in two quarts of peanut oil at 365-375 degrees. The tortillas will need to fry for 20-30 seconds or until they float. Transfer the chips to a rack to drain/cool.

We found these chips to be nearly inedible, as they were incredibly dense and hard. They were difficult to bite/chew and I just threw my portion of nachos away.

Even served as nachos, Alton’s tortilla chips were inedible.

I was honestly afraid I would chip a tooth! I would just simply not make these again, or at least not with Alton’s corn tortillas. As I mentioned previously, I found Alton’s tortilla recipe to result in fairly thick, chewy tortillas, and that just really translated into the chips. I think I would enjoy the lime/salt flavor of these chips if it were possible to make them light and crispy, and maybe that would be possible with thinner, less dense tortillas. Here’s hoping to better recipes in the next episode!