The Recipe: A hearty, meaty soup that's almost thick enough to call "stew" but remains somehow, soup, still. It's a wintery, filling soup, packed with root vegetables and earthy mushrooms and the addictive nuttiness of barley.
The Conversation: Restoring a kitchen mojo.
What do you do when you lose your kitchen mojo? Do you just let it go? wait for it to return? fight to get it back? order pizza? :-)
My mojo loss skews toward indecision. Like all of us, I suppose, I prefer to cook from the pantry and the freezer, with any luck, dinner will be quick and healthy. But as a blogger, there's another dimension: old recipes which need new pictures or new recipes that need work before they're ready to share. So there I am, stuck in a mire of hungry indecision, too many choices, too many limitations.
To jump start dinner, I ignore my files, knowing that sooner than later, some recipe will pop up, usually from a favorite fellow blogger or Canadian Living or Vegetarian Times. One source that appeals surprisingly often? The recipe in the New York Times' Sunday magazine.
This Beef Barley Soup recipe was in Sunday's paper, Fat Dad: Love in a Bowl of Soup. The story by author Dawn Lerman explores the complicated relationship between food and love, especially the struggle between Lerman's "fat" father and his "food pushy" mother. There's a whole series of "Fat Dad" essays, they're all fascinating.
But Sunday's recipe pushed me to the basement freezer for soup bones and back into the kitchen. On Day One as snow fell outside, I made homemade beef stock. (Yes it's important but if you're not up for that, good homemade chicken stock would work, so would a good-quality commercial paste like Better Than Bouillon.) On Day Two, I made the soup in the morning and finished it just before dinner.
For most cooks, Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms is probably a weekend recipe. It is a project, albeit a worthy one: and nothing difficult, mind you, just not a soup that'll hit the table in Rachael Ray-time. But it feels like real cooking, sure-footed and simultaneous sustenance and satisfaction.
Is my mojo back? Well, let's just say that those first spoonfuls of soup were The.Best.Ever. So Good.
BEEF BARLEY SOUP with MUSHROOMS
Day One, 30 minutes over about 6 hours
Day Two, 30 minutes over about 2 hours
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes 16 cups
DAY ONE: HOMEMADE BEEF STOCK
- 3 pounds meaty beef soup bones
- 2 pounds bone-in round steak or beef chuck
- 4 quarts water
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 4 carrots, trimmed and peeled, cut into rough chunks
- 4 ribs celery, trimmed, cut into rough chunks
- Salt to taste
DAY TWO: BEEF BARLEY SOUP
- 8 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 onion, diced
- 8 carrots, trimmed and peeled, cut into rounds or chunks
- 8 ribs celery, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
- 1 pound mushrooms, caps broken into large chunks, stems chopped fine
- 1 cup (200g) pearl barley
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
- Cooked beef, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
- Additional salt and pepper, as needed
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
DAY ONE: ROAST SOUP BONES Heat oven to 400F/200C. Place foil on a baking sheet, arrange the beef bones on the sheet and roast for about 45 minutes. Move the bones plus any juices and rendered fat to a large stock pot.
SIMMER STOCK Cut the round steak or beef chuck into large pieces, add to the stock pot. Add the water, onion, carrots and celery too. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 2 hours.
REMOVE THE MEAT Pull out the big pieces of round steak or beef chuck, cover and refrigerate to use on Day Two.
REDUCE THE STOCK Taste the stock. If it's watery, uncover the stock pot and continue to simmer until it reduces to about 8 cups, this took about 2 hours. (If you end up with more than 8 cups, no problem, just save it for another purpose. If you end up with less, no problem, just supplement with a little chicken stock or bouillon or even water.) Once it's reduced, pull out the bones and other solids and discard these.
REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT Cover the stockpot and refrigerate overnight so the fat will congeal on top. Pull off the fat: wow, my stock yielded a full 3/4 of a pound of fat!
DAY TWO: SEASON THE STOCK Taste the stock, season with salt and pepper.
ADD VEGETABLES, SIMMER 30 MINUTES Add the onion, carrot, celery, parsnips, mushrooms, barley, tomato paste and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes or until the barley is soft. (Stop here if making ahead of time. Return to a simmer to continue.)
ADD MEAT, SIMMER 45 MINUTES Add the meat, let the soup simmer for another 45 minutes, the broth will thicken slightly. Along the way, taste and adjust the seasoning.
SERVE To serve, ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with a little fresh parsley and enjoy, with gusto!
ALANNA's TIPS Sixteen cups is a lot of soup! Make sure your soup pot is big enough. If you already have homemade beef stock, go ahead, use it. You will want to cook the round steak or chuck ahead of time though, you could brown it in a skillet, say. So much carrot and celery? Too much, I thought! But it wasn't, it was perfect. Don't skip the parsnip, it adds a lovely underlying sweetness that's captivating. Why tear the mushrooms into pieces instead of slicing them with a knife? It's a trick I learned from from Cook's Illustrated's World's Best Green Bean Casserole. When mushroom caps are torn, the irregular shapes prove the presence of fresh mushrooms. Somehow, chopped mushrooms are just too reminiscent of canned mushroom soup. Even sliced mushrooms are just a little bit slimy and icky. Torn mushrooms? Perfect!
Per Cup: 193 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 44mg Cholesterol; 521mg Sodium; 20g Carb; 5g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 20g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 5 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1/2 cup (10g protein). This recipe has been "Alanna-sized" with more calorie-free flavor and protein.
Why is the broth so delicious? I think there are three reasons. Good savory beef stock. The sweetness of parsnips. But most of all? There's an underlying earthiness that comes from the mushrooms.
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