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Vanocni Kuba

Hana Williamson

Here is a medieval Czech holiday dish. It is called Christmas Jacob (vanocni Kuba) and it is a barley-mushroom concoction. Picking wild mushrooms and drying them is a Czech national pastime. So while you look in an American store at a cellophane bag of a few slivers of dried mushrooms from France for $5.00, a respectable Czech household has like buckets of those in a pantry. You would need several of those expensive packages to do the dish. That said, this is how you do it on an American budget.

Boil barley in a salty water – do not use the quick cooking kind – go for the real thing. It will take about 40 minutes to cook al dente. Meanwhile, prepare your mushrooms.

Two packages of baby bella mushrooms, sliced, sautéed in a big pan with good quality smokey bacon. You want the mushrooms to crisp up a bit.

Add chopped garlic to taste – you probably want more than less. Flavor with salt, lots of freshly coarsely ground pepper and some marjoram.

Rinse the cooked barley to get the slime off, mix in a bowl with the mushroom/bacon mixture, adjust pepper/salt, pack into a casserole dish, pour a little bit of broth over, perhaps add a few things of bacon over the top and put into a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

Also works great as a side dish for roast pork.

It is very tasty – Chetness is my witness.

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