This may be my absolute favorite soup. Beef and barley soup offers up everything I like about a soup. Rich, hearty stock, flavor meat and vegetables and the barley just seems to pull it all together to make a fantastic meal overall. We made a batch of this soup a week or so ago and froze leftovers just so we could have it again another time. I actually made my own beef stock to make this one using the prime rib bones I had from the holidays so the stock had even better flavor and I didn’t need to follow the stock recipe that is included in this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. If you don’t have your own beef stock, try making this one because it will help add a good depth of flavor to the stock beyond what you get from any store-bought stock.
Beef and Barley Soup
For the Stock:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
8 cups water
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
For the Soup:
1 pound sirloin steak tips, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup pearl barley
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
To prepare the stock, heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the mushrooms and the chopped onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is browned and a golden brown fond has formed on the bottom of the pot, about 8 to 12 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the red wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until it is nearly evaporated, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the 8 cups of water, the chopped carrot, celery, soy sauce, salt and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, skimming as needed, until the stock tastes rich and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. Allow the stock to settle for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the fat from the stock by skimming with a wide, shallow spoon or using a fat separator. Set the stock aside.
To prepare the soup, pat the sirloin steak tips dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is well browned, about 5 to 7 minutes, reducing the heat if the pot is beginning to scorch. transfer the browned meat to a medium bowl and repeat the process with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and the remaining beef. transfer the second batch of browned meat to the bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to the now-empty Dutch oven and heat over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the cremini mushrooms and the chopped onion and cook until they are softened, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic clove and the thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the all-purpose flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the red wine, scraping up any browned bits and cook until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 1 minute.
Stir in the reserved beef stock, the drained diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, pearl barley, bay leaves and the meat along with any accumulated meat juices in the bowl. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the meat, barley and vegetables are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Off the heat, remove the bay leaves. Stir in the fresh minced parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
A couple of quick notes about the recipe. If you don’t want to cook with the red wine, leave it out or substitute water or extra beef stock. You might lose a bit of flavor but not that much. I used plain white mushrooms instead of cremini because I can’t always get cremini around here. even if you don’t really like mushrooms, they really do add some great flavor to this soup so you should try to keep them in. Michelle doesn’t like to eat mushrooms, but we still use them for the flavor and she eats around them. You also want to make sure you cut everything to uniform sizes so it all cooks evenly. One thing to know about any leftovers or if you are cooking this ahead of time – barley will keep absorbing liquid as it sits, so be prepared for that. It’s best to eat this the same day you make it or know you will have to add stock when you re-heat and the barley will be a bit bloated. Other than that, this is a great filling soup that everyone seems to enjoy and it is one of my favorites every time.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then,enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!