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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Saffron Barley With Chicken & Shellfish

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Barley is a wonderfully versatile cereal grain with a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency. Its appearance resembles wheat berries, although it is slightly lighter in color. Sprouted barley is naturally high in maltose, a sugar that serves as the basis for both malt syrup sweeteners. When fermented, barley is used as an ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages.

Serves 6


¼ teaspoon saffron threads

¼ cup vegetable stock, heated

Salt to taste

10 ounces instant pearl barley

1 pound mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded

1 pound clams, scrubbed

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra

1 shallot, minced

6 ounces chicken breast, skinless, boneless, cut into ¾-inch pieces

4 ounces string beans cut into 1-inch pieces

6 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Freshly ground black pepper


Combine the saffron and stock, and keep warm. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the barley, and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes, then drain. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the mussels, clams and wine, and cover. Cook until the shells open, about 5 minutes and remove from the pan. Strain the cooking liquid, and reserve. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil, and add the shallot. 

Sautee until it’s soft and then adds the chicken. Saute for 6 minutes, then add the string beans and asparagus, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add the barley along with the saffron infused stock. Stir well, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels and clams along with ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Adjust again the seasonings and drizzle each serving with extra virgin olive oil.

Benefits of barley

People with celiac disease can safely eat many common plants, seeds, grains, cereals and flour, including corn, polenta, potatoes, rice and soya. However they should avoid barley, wheat, rye, couscous and semolina as they are some of the foods which contain gluten. Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health, too. However, much of the barley eaten in the U.S. is pearled or pearl barley, which is missing some or its entire bran layer. As it grows in the field most barley has an inedible hull adhering tightly to the grain kernel. Oats are among the many cereal grains consumed. ... Part of the grass family, barley grows in over 100 countries and is one of the most popular cereal crops, surpassed only by wheat, corn and rice. Because barley is a whole-grain food, consumption provides several health benefits. One of the nutritional highlights of barley is that it is very high in selenium, which helps to prevent our body from damage by free radicals. Each cup of cooked barley has 193 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of protein, and 44.3 grams of carbohydrates.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  Check out the Chef's website and blog.


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