It’s not often that my husband asks me to make something specific for dinner. Most of the time when I ask him what he wants he just shrugs and says, “I dunno, you’re the chef.” Either that, or he suggests burgers. Needless to say, I’ve spoiled him, and the meal planning is pretty much all on me. But the other day, he made a special request for my Beef, Barley & Mushroom Soup.
Beef, Barley & Mushroom Soup it is!
Beef, Barley & Mushroom Soup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ½ pounds beef chuck, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
½ cup red wine
3 quarts beef broth
1 ½ cups pearled barley
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
Heat a large, heavy pot over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add half of the beef and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, tossing about 2 times, until crusty and brown in spots.* Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a plate. Sear the remaining beef in the same manner and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and tomato paste and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and sauté 6 to 7 minutes more, or until soft. Add the wine and simmer for a minute or so, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a heat-proof spatula. Return the beef to the pot and add the broth, barley, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the beef and barley are both tender. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig, and skim off any fat from the surface of the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8 as a main course. This is hearty, satisfying comfort food, and perfect for the coldest of days. The recipe makes a lot, but it’s even better the second day.
*Searing the beef in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.