Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup

This winter is like a bad boyfriend who just won’t leave you alone.

There I got it out of my system. I want to be grilling again!

This week’s snowfall called for a hearty pot of soup. We’ve been dealing with aging parents issues this week and I thought a good old pot of beef, mushroom and barley soup would heal everyone.

I found this wonderful soup recipe on Epicurious.com.

All I can say is…

Earthy, aromatic, hearty and delicate.

And you’re about to find out why.

Here’s my version with some tweaks to the original recipe.

I started with three 5 oz. packages of dried mushrooms. I went crazy! I bought four different kinds of mushrooms – Shiitake, Oyster, Lobster and Padi Straw.

Now I have to admit here that dried mushrooms scare me. I don’t know why – maybe it’s because they’re all shriveled up or something. I decide to conquer my fear and embrace their beauty.

Soak the dried mushrooms in three cups of boiling water and watch them blossom! Make sure you save the water for the broth which will add the earthiness to the soup.

Let’s talk about beef here. I bought boneless lean shank which was fine and kept the fattiness down but I found it to be a bit tough and grisly. Next time I will definitely use short ribs with the bone and just skim the fat off afterward.

Chop the soaked dried mushrooms in little bits. See…they’re pretty now, aren’t they?

Bring soaked mushrooms, soaking liquid, meat, salt, pepper, and 4 cups of beef broth and 4 cups of water to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart pot, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, skimming foam, until meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Transfer meat with a slotted spoon to a cutting board to cool, reserving broth.

The original recipe calls for 8 cups of water…I did 4 cups of beef broth and 4 cups of water…more flavor, right?

Prepare and chop the other ingredients…cremini mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery.

While the broth is simmering, saute the trinity (onions, celery and carrots) – adding mushrooms until soft (about 10 minutes).

After 10 minutes, add the barley to the vegetables…

Saute for one minute.

Remove beef from the pot with a slotted spoon and dice into small chewable bits.  Add beef and vegetables back to the broth and simmer for another 40 minutes until barley is tender. Ten minutes before the soup is done, I throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

The original recipe calls for fresh dill…seriously, dill? I don’t think so! Trust me – thyme is on your side!

Soups on! Note that because of the barley, the soup will thicken overnight…simply water it down a bit.

Recipe: Mushroom, Beef and Barley Soup (adapted from Epicurious.com)

  • 1 1/2 oz dried mushrooms
  • 3 cups boiling-hot water
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 pound cross-cut beef short ribs or flanken
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

Soak dried mushrooms in boiling-hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain in a paper-towel-lined sieve set over a bowl and reserve soaking liquid. Rinse mushrooms, pat dry, and finely chop.

Bring soaked mushrooms, soaking liquid, ribs, salt, pepper with 4 cups of beef broth and 4 cups of water to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart pot, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, skimming foam, until meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Transfer ribs with a slotted spoon to a cutting board to cool, reserving broth.

While meat simmers, cook onion, carrots, celery, and creminis in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in barley and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Discard bones, fat, and gristle from meat, then cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces and add to broth along with barley mixture. Simmer, uncovered, until barley is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim fat from surface, then stir in dill and salt to taste.

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