Butternut Squash “Barloatto” with Dried Tart Cherries

Lorrie made this for a class about Frey that Hrafnar held in September 2016, accompanying her Malt-Braised Pork Shanks. The inspiration for this dish was this vegan Canadian offering; the astute reader will see it can be returned to a vegetarian or vegan state without much trouble.

If a guest is sensitive to barley or gluten, brown or other whole grain rice may be substituted. Gluten-free oats may or may not be acceptable to sensitive guests, so replace them as well if at all unsure. In this event, replace the oats with a similar quantity of brown or other whole grain rice that has been pulsed in a blender, food processor, or spice/coffee grinder until most grains have been cut, but not so long as to make rice flour. The observant cook may ask “why not use risotto rice?”, to which the answer is that this dish is built with whole grains and their longer cooking times in mind, and proper arborio is a white rice. Pearl barley, like white rice, should be avoided.

In any case, non-pearl barley can be difficult to find any way but mail order unless your neighborhood has a deep and abiding appreciation of whole grains. The barley may be substituted for any similarly-sized whole grain: emmer, spelt, farro, wheat berries, rye berries, oat groats, and so on–although the eager cook should be aware that most of these are gluten grains, and should go with rice if there is any doubt about the diners.

Dried tart unsweetened cherries may be difficult to find. Dried cranberries may be substituted.

Butternut squash come in a dizzying array of sizes, from “fits comfortably in the hand” to “did this fall off a stallion?”. Comparisons like “small” and “large” are entirely inadequate. A fitting squash will be more neck than base, feel heavy for its weight, and mass a bit more than two pounds (the neighborhood of a kilogram).

If you are unfamiliar with how to turn these sturdy self-stable stalwarts into food, this tutorial held Lorrie’s hand while she learned. Instead of cutting into cubes, leave the neck in long spears and the bulb in wedges for shredding. Shredding is an artifact of the original recipe; it may suffice to simply dice the squash.

White vinegar is made from vodka. White wine vinegar is made from wine and still has a bit of flavor. If you cannot find this, apple cider vinegar would be preferred to white vinegar.

Last, “barloatto” is an unskilled portmanteau of barley, oat, and risotto, but should be pronounced appropriately.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced or shredded
  • 1 c (250 mL) hulled, hull-less, or purple barley (not pearl barley)
  • 1/2 c (125 mL) steel-cut oats
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 butternut squash, 2 1/4-2 1/2 lb (1 kg-ish)
  • 2/3 c (150 mL) dried tart unsweetened cherries, roughly chopped with an oiled knife
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) dried sage (preferably rubbed)
  • 1 qt (1 L) homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar

Special Equipment

  • slow cooker, at least four quart/liter capacity
  • food processor with shredding disc or box grater

Instructions

Prepare the squash and shred in food processor or box grater. If using a food processor, you may as well shred the onion while you’re there.

Add butter, onion, barley, oats, garlic, squash, and cherries to slow cooker insert. Scatter a fine even layer of sage over the top. Add stock. Add pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Close lid of slow cooker and cook on high for three hours, or low for six, until barley has cooked (it will still be chewy, but should be more than al dente).

Once barley is cooked, stir in vinegar. Replace lid and allow to cook an additional five minutes. Season with additional salt, pepper, and vinegar, if needed, before serving.