Christmas Sausage, Tomato, & Barley Stew

I'm I'm I came home from school early today not feeling good, which gave me plenty of time to relax and watch food network! Around 3 I started feeling better and by 6 I was ready to cook dinner! We had TONS of food packed in our fridge but I couldn't find anything to cook. I wanted to use barley so my initial idea was a beef and barley stew. Even though that's really nothing special and overdone, I wanted to put my own twist on it. We didn't have any beef but we did have leftover Christmas sausage in the freezer (which happens to be one of my favorite things about the holiday season) so my dad gave me the idea to make a take on red beans and rice. The finished product was like a Christmas sausage and barley tomato based stew… and it was delicious.
not the prettiest plate of food ever but definitely a tasty one

Something I've been loving lately when I cook is mixing shallots, onions, and garlic not just 1 or 2 of them like I used to do. I like the different levels of flavor and intensity they all bring. Whenever I cooked before, and I mean like a couple of months ago, I didn't really put that much effort into the onions and garlic part of my cooking. I would just take a half an onion, roughly chop it and 1 clove of garlic in a semi heated pan with a splash of olive oil to start off anything I needed a base of onion flavor for. But now I've realized that when you cook your onions or shallots or garlic or peppers in the beginning of your meal, or whatever you do first when you cook, that's the most important part. If you don't season or cook the first component properly, it could get lost in the final dish or even ruin it. I've loved starting off with a little scoop (about 1 tbs) coconut oil, which is a little bit of a healthier option, and pouring the onions in right before the pan gets really hot where it will sizzle. To me that helps keep the onions from drying out and burning too quickly, it also helps them get softer quicker. Then I add salt, pepper, and all the spices I'm planning on using in the dish. Sometimes I add balsamic if it works with my dish, it's one of my favorite ingredients to add flavor to and it's definitely my favorite vinegar. 
Well enough on onions and garlic and shallots... here's the recipe. (feeds about 5)

1 sweet onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (roughly minced)
1 shallot (roughly minced)
coconut oil (i use unrefined but refined doesn't have any coconut flavor, but can be substituted with any oil)
5 medium sized carrots (washed and peeled) cut into 1/2 in. thick moons- as the pieces get bigger cut them in half
1 bundle asparagus (washed, ends cut off, and cut into 3-  1 1/2 in. pieces)
1 cup barley
Christmas sausage (however much you like, we used 1 nicely sized link)
1 1/3 cups crushed tomatoes
splash of whatever wine you have
2 tbs. champagne vinegar
2 tbs. balsamic
salt, pepper, dried sage, dried oregano, dried basil, bay leafs (2), 2 thyme leaves, dried cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon
chicken stock & beef stock

Boil the sausage after being defrosted (if needed), until all the way cooked.

Cook the barley like you would rice, add the barley to 2 cups of water (or 1 cup water and 1 cup chicken stock for more flavor), add salt, pepper, and little bit of EVOO, and the bay leafs. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork when done and fully absorbed.

In a deep saute´ pan melt the coconut oil on medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and shallots. Add salt, pepper, balsamic, and champagne vinegar. Stir and let cook down on a simmer. Once soft add the tomatoes and wine. Add about 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/3 cup beef broth, then add all the spices including salt and pepper. Go lightly on the thyme and cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 thyme) Everything else you can load up on as much as you wish. Don't be afraid to play around with other spices too! Cover and cook down on a simmer. Add more chicken stock if needed for liquid.

Blanch: Boil the carrots and asparagus in boiling water and salt until they are cooked through, soft but still crisp. 

Strain and pour into ice water to reserve the color. Add to the stew liquid.

Broil the sausage link(s) until all sides have a nice light crust on the outside.
Cut into half moons. Add to the stew.

Season the stew how it needs to be seasoned and add any finishing touches. Let it all cook together for 3-5 minutes.

Place a scoop of barley on your dish and pour the stew over. Top with grated parm and fresh thyme leaves.

                                        -Cecilia A. <3


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