In hate to admit it, but I'm a bit of a food snob. I prefer homemade mac and cheese to the stuff in the blue box, I won't eat plastic that comes in individually wrapped slices masquerading as cheese, and the idea of a casserole usually doesn't interest me.
It's not so much the idea of the casserole, as the idea of certain kinds of casseroles. Growing up in Western PA, the typical casserole was a combination of meat, cream of ____ soup, and potato chips. Sort of an odd conglomeration. But really, any dish that combines various ingredients and is baked is a casserole. And if the ingredients are good, the casserole is the perfect kind of meal.
This casserole is chock full of deliciousness. I love the chewiness of barley, so a dish in which it stars is usually a good start. Add in some dark green spinach, some earthy mushrooms and some melty cheese and you're almost home-free. And of course, everything is better with bacon.
Mushroom and Bacon Barley Casserole (From Prevention RD)
4 cups beef broth
3 cups water
8 slices nitrate-free bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pearl barley
1/3 cup Madeira wine
4 oz gruyere, shredded
1/2 cup sundried tomato halves, chopped
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- Preheat oven to 375. Bring stock and 3 cups of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
- Cook bacon until crisp, remove and set aside.
- Add onion, thyme, and garlic to bacon grease and saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and salt and cook for 10 minutes.
- Stir in barley and cook for 1 minute.
- Add Madeira and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the wine is absorbed.
- Reduce heat to medium and stir in 2 cups of the broth. Cook until the liquid is dearly absorbed.
- Add remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, letting each addition get absorbed by the barley before adding in the next.
- Stir in half of the gruyere, the tomatoes, soy sauce, pepper, spinach, and bacon (chopped). Place the mixture in a baking dish.
- Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 15-20 minutes.