Beef Barley Soup
I DEVELOPED A REMARKABLE NEW SOUP quite by accident. It began on a Sunday morning when my local grocer was offering chuck roast on special. I found a nicely packaged portion in the meat case for $7. That’s a good price in my book. Half my pleasure from cooking comes from the fond memories of my childhood, especially around a Sunday meal. I remember Mom’s kitchen aromas permeating our entire house. I’d be studying, or reading a Hardy Boys book, when the aromatic plume from her kitchen would find me. I was in the mood to capture that comfort that surrounds such a meal.
In the early afternoon I placed the lightly seared roast in an oven-proof pan and positioned a montage of root vegetables artfully around the roast; topping the roast with diced tomatoes, red wine, garlic, and sprigs of fresh thyme. During the next few hours it slowly roasted creating a fragrance that soon declared it as the perfect dish. I also made Jiffy corn bread and steamed fresh green beans to complete my Sunday meal.
It was the next day that brought the surprise of the winter cooking season with the help of the leftover pot roast. Quite by accident, I discovered on my kitchen shelf a box of unopened barley. Quaker Medium Pearled Barley to be precise. I guessed it had been left there by my former girlfriend. How nice. I had never cooked with barley before. The looming challenge to me was what other ingredients could I use to help create my leftover inspired soup?
The next surprise was finding a tub of white button mushrooms deep in the back of the refrigerator that I had forgotten were there. They barely had life left in them, just enough to still be acceptable and keep me true to my frugal ways. I knew I had the beginnings of a recipe that would work – pot roast, mushrooms, and barley.
I was still not quite sure the final direction I was heading, but I find that is half the fun of developing a new recipe. Frankly, I am not much of a measurer. It often causes dissonance upon those with whom I share my recipes, so I will try my best to be accurate in the ingredient’s counts and measures.
I proceeded to cut the cold roast into bite-size cubes and set them aside. I sliced and diced two medium onions, three large stalks of celery, two garlic cloves and four medium carrots. I then placed 2 to 3 TBS. of olive oil in the deep pot and gently sautéed the ingredients for five minutes until translucent, whatever that really means? Aroma to me is as much the key to readiness as is time. I sliced the mushrooms into 2 or 3 pieces each and added them to the pot continuing the sauté. After a few minutes, I added the beef cubes and ¾ cup red wine (shiraz) and let the flavors marry under a medium heat.
The aroma was divine.
I dug into my freezer where I had a container of marinara sauce I had frozen earlier in the fall. I quickly defrosted the container which yielded about two cups liquid that went into the pan. I then added two TBS. of beef-flavored broth cubes and 4 cups of water letting this all come together. The dry barley was measured pouring about one cup of the little pearls into the stock. I let everything gently bubble uncovered for a good forty-five minutes. It came together nicely and thickened appropriately. During the last few minutes I chopped a handful of parsley and added it to the soup. Sea salt and ground pepper topped it all off.
A declaration is in order. This was one of the best winter soups I had made in years. I was amazed by the flavor in every spoonful. Could it have been the dehydrated mushrooms? My marinara sauce? Or, my ex-girlfriend’s pearled barley? I like to think it was everything coming together. The bay leaf I added as the pot simmered would have certainly brought my mother’s approval. It was one of her secrets in making a great soup, or stew. I think she would have agreed that she met her match with my leftover beef, barley, and mushroom creation.
I’m still wondering is it a soup, or is it a stew?
It matters not.
Bob’s Leftover Beef, Barley and Mushroom Creation
1 ½ pounds leftover beef roast cubed
2-3 TBS olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
2 smashed garlic cloves
3 celery stalks chopped
4 carrots chopped
1 carton button mushrooms sliced
4-6 oz. red wine
2 cups marinara sauce
4 cups beef stock
1 cup pearled barley
1 bay leaf
Chopped fresh parsley (handful)
Salt and Pepper