Lemon Barley "Risotto" with Shrimp, Bacon and Spinach

Its the week of Valentine’s and we are SO NOT Valentine’s people. We have traditionally protested it for the past 5 years. By protesting we celebrate on a different day and stay in the house the actual day of Valentine’s. This year I happened to be scheduled to work 8-5 and then I have class at the police department from 6-9, ergo I wouldn’t even be home that day. I started to think that I would plan a nice Sunday dinner for us since he was coming off of a 30-ish hour shift and I hadn’t seen him all weekend. Searching through FineCooking.com (on suggestion from my boss) I came across the  Lemon Barley “Risotto” with Shrimp, Bacon and Spinach recipe. It looked yummy so I printed it out. Easy enough, few ingredients, all of the steps were within my capability, worth a shot. Here we go…

Ingredients:
6 slices bacon 
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onions 
1-1/3 cups quick-cooking barley 
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 
2-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth 
1/4 lb. (4 cups loosely packed) baby spinach, washed and spun dry 
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano 
3 tsp. finely grated lemon zest 

**I bought pre-cooked bacon and substituted brown rice for the barley.

Step 1: I put a little olive oil in the pan so the bacon wouldn’t stick and made it extra crispy. DO NOT discard bacon grease. 

Step 2: VERY CAREFULLY place the shrimp in the bacon grease to cook through. (During this time I had Mike chopping spinach, bacon, and the shallots. Also zested the lemon while the shrimp was cooking.)
*Fire Wife & Former Restaurant Manager speaking here: because the shrimp have water in them and you are putting water into hot grease try to do this away from the stove or let the pan cool a little or you’ll get popped with grease.

Step 3: Once shrimp has been cooked, pull it out of the pan and set aside. Keep all the juices in the pan though. 

Step 4: With the leftover juices from the bacon and shrimp, put your shallots in the pan and soften them up.

Step 5: Next I tossed all the rice in with the shallots to brown up the rice and give it some flavor. Make sure to scrape everything off the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t stick.
Step 6: Pour the chicken stock in with the rice and shallots. Bring to a boil. 

Step7: Once it starts to boil, bring it down to Medium-Low heat and cover. DO NOT OPEN while it’s cooking. I’ve learned the first rule to rice is leave it alone. (Since I used Minute Rice, it took about 12-ish minutes for it to soften.)

Step 8: Take the lid off and stir the rice. Make sure it doesn’t stick to bottom. Stir around until most of the liquid evaporates, leave enough liquid to cover the bottom though. Add your spinach and stir/fold until it’s wilted.

Step 9: Add everything that’s left. The shrimp, bacon, lemon zest, and lemon juice. I stirred that around for a bit and then added the cheese at the end. TA-DA!!

Results: Mike went back for seconds so I think it was a success. Next time I’m going to use regular onions instead of shallots because it was too strong of a flavor I can’t describe and caused me to put more lemon juice in to mask it. (Mike ate a raw shallot thinking it would taste like onions and the look on his face was priceless!! Definitely not what he expecting.) Also, the original recipe says it’ll serve four but if this is a main dish with nothing else then there won’t be enough. If serving with a salad or veggie alongside then it should be ok. If we had friends over I’d def double this or make something to go along with it. Lastly, I’d like to try this Cajun style, maybe with some crawfish instead of shrimp and some zing to it. I bet it’d be comparable to etouffee. 
Anyways, there ya have it! We liked it. Plus it took an hour start to finish, including taking pictures along the way. No too bad time wise. Leave me comments of your results or different ideas, I’d love to hear them!!
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