Pot Roasted Game with Barley

Since starting this blog back in 2012 I ha always intended to include the various recipes and foods that I make with, or enjoy alongside, my homebrew. I’ve done a terrible job at this – posting an underwhelming one recipe in this area back in 2015. Hopefully this post will serve as the beginning of a better series on beer in food. This is an old family recipe which serves as a versatile base for a number of meals. This has been a regular in my dinner rotation for years, I I didn’t even think of it as a “special” or blog-worthy recipe until I saw Scott Rea‘s version (one of my favourite youtube channels) last week.  Motivated by his video, I shot a few photos while putting together this meal on Sunday. So here is my interpretation of a classical one-pot recipe: pot-roasted game bird on barley.

ducks on the lam
One of these ducks was featured in this meal.

Ingredients – Pot roasted game on barley

Browning a duck
Barely fits!
  • 1 small game bird (duck, pheasant, grouse, etc). This recipe also works well with a rabbit (piece it out if its too large for your pot), cornish hens, chicken (again, piece it out), venison, or even pork chops. For this recipe I used a duck we raised.
  • 1 cup of homebrewed cider, beer, white wine or mead. If using beer, use something that is not too hoppy. I suppose you could use a purchased beverage, but if you are, I question why you’re reading my blog. For this recipe I’m using my 2017 Cyser.
  • 3 cups chicken (or pork, or rabbit, or any other lighter-flavoured) stock. For this recipe I’m using some homemade chicken stock.
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped and crushed
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • A lot of coarsely chopped mushrooms – at least 3 cups of fresh mushrooms, or 2 cans of canned mushrooms
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (or ~1 tbsp dried)
  • 5 springs thyme (or ~2 tbsp dried)
  • 300 g pear barley or 250 g bulgur wheat
  • oil or butter
  • salt & pepper

Process – Pot roasted game on barley

Simmering the pot roasted game on barley
Simmer for 1 hour
  1. Salt and pepper the bird/meat. Brown the bird/meat in a large pot over medium heat, turning frequently to ensure an even browning. Add oil or butter to help brown meats without a skin, but most game birds/chickens will have enough oil in their skin to brown on their own. Once browned, put aside.
  2. Lower the heat on the pot and cook your onions until translucent. You are looking to sweat the onions, not to caramelize them, so keep the heat low and go slow. If needed, add oil to aid in the cooking of the onions.
  3. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms start to give up their moisture and begin to shrink.
  4. Raise the temperature to medium heat and add the barley or bulgur wheat and the cider/beer/wine/mead. Cook until the barley/wheat is mostly dry – this will cause the grain to take up the liquid, thus intensifying the flavour of your homebrew in the grain.
  5. Add the stock, place the bird/meat in the middle of the pot, and place the herbs on top of the barley, beside the bird. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.
  6. Cook covered for 1 hour; add an extra 15 minutes for larger intact birds.
  7. Remove the bird/meat and set aside on a plate to rest.
  8. Remove the herbs. Salt and pepper the barley to taste.

Optional (but recommended): add butter and/or parmesan cheese to the barley/wheat. This will give it a creamy texture and richness.


Enjoy & Beer Pairing

Pot roasted game on barley
Pot Roasted Game (well, yard-raised duck) on Barley, paired with Autumn Olive Saison.

As fancy as “Pot roasted game on barley sounds”, this meal is a simple, savoury 1-pot meal. Make it on a Sunday night with a game bird for a special treat, or make it with pork chops or chicken pieces in the slow cooker for an easy mid-week meal that’s ready when you come home from work.

The barley will take on the flavour of the beverage you add, nicely highlighting it in your meal. The meat will be tender and well flavoured. I’ve used all sorts of beers and other beverages in this recipe, and most of them work. Darker beers like stouts go great with dark meats like duck & venison, while malty lagers work well with lighter meats such as chicken. I recommend avoiding highly hopped beers as these flavours clash with the savoury flavours of this dish.

You can also prepare pot roasted game on barley in a slow-cooker. Simply brown the bird and sweat the onions, then dump everything into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours, or on medium for 5-6 hours. The meat will be even more tender when cooked this way, and the barley takes on a risotto-like creaminess. Using a slow cooker is a great way to tenderise tougher animals, and for reducing the gaminess of stronger meats.

This meal goes well alongside most homebrews, but my preferred pairings are rustic farmhouse ales or with malty lagers such as bocks. This recipe also goes alongside a pint of dry cider or with a dry white wine…homebrewed of course!

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