Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recipe: NOT Kasha Varnishkes

I guess I'd better do some quick explaining here...this recipe was inspired by a recipe for "Kasha Varnishkes" (a Jewish classic) that I saw on a television program a while back. I wish I could remember which show it was - probably Martha Stewart, but I really don't remember.

The dish looked so good, but on the program they used chicken fat in the recipe. I don't keep chicken fat around, and didn't feel like buying some chicken just to render the fat from the skin. However, I do - in fine Southern tradition - keep bacon drippings in a special tin in my refrigerator. These drippings are from Applewood Smoked Bacon that we buy at The Fresh Market, and they're great for anything from seasoning vegetables to making "Fodder" (A wonderful and fresh Southern dish that my mom makes when the garden first comes in during Spring). They also remind me of some really nice pork smaltz I've had in Germany.

Needless to say, I was all for substituting bacon drippings for the chicken fat, but then there was the matter of kasha...I didn't have any at the time, and I couldn't find any at The Fresh Market either. I decided to substitute pearled barley for the kasha. At this point the only things recognizable from the original recipe were the bow-tie pasta, caramelized onions (that's what sold me on the recipe to start with), salt and pepper. But what a wonderful recipe of substitutions it turned out to be!

I've made this dish several times because Corey and I both like it a lot. Hope you do too!

"It may not be kosher, but it sure is scrumptious!"

NOT Kasha Varnishkes (aka 'Bow-ties for Gentiles')


2-4 servings Bow-tie pasta aka Farfalle pasta (cooked al dente)

1 Large yellow onion or 2 small ones

1/4 - 1/2 cup pearled barley (pre-cooked measurement), cooked

2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced (optional - not in the original recipe, but I occasionally add it in)

2 - 3 tbsp bacon drippings

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

The most time consuming part of the cooking process is preparing the bow-tie pasta and the pearled barley. The barley cooking instructions say to boil it for 45 minutes, so I'd recommend starting the barley, then the pasta, then prep your onions and garlic while they're cooking. Don't forget to add salt to the water while they're cooking - that way you don't have to add as much later on.

Cut the onion(s) in half, then slice them thinly before caramelizing them in the bacon drippings. Usually I cook them in a pressure cooker (w/o the lid, of course) so there's plenty of room to add the cooked pasta and barley. If you're going to add garlic, add it to the caramelized onions once they've reached the desired color, and continue to cook for about 30 seconds before adding the drained pasta and barley. Salt and pepper to taste, carefully stir to distribute barley, pasta and seasonings evenly, and serve.

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