I've been a bit under the weather lately, and what better cure for what ails you than a hearty, homemade soup?
Beef and barley soup is a longtime favorite of mine, although I've never found quite the right formula at home. My attempts have either tasted too strongly of wine, tomatoes, or salty beef broth, rather than a complimentary balance of all three. Enter Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever by Diane Phillips, which has about the most perfect beef and barley soup broth I've tasted. (This cookbook also gave me my favorite chili recipe.)
My mom stopped by while I was packing up the leftovers. She thought the soup was so terrific that after one taste, she took me up on my offer to send a few bowls back with her. And rumor has it, she ate it all in one sitting.
Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup
Makes 10-12 servings
2-2 1/2 pounds beef, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
6 cups beef broth (preferably low-sodium)
1/2 cup pearl barley
Additional salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add the beef in batches, and season with salt and pepper before browning on all sides before transferring to slow cooker.
You want to get it a bit more brown than I did here. I nearly started my stovetop on fire shortly before this, so I was playing it safe.
3. Add the garlic, onions, mushrooms, and thyme to the skillet. Saute until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated before transferring to slow cooker.
4. Deglaze the skillet with the tomato paste and red wine. Allow wine to reduce by about 1/4 cup before transferring to the slow cooker.
5. Add carrots and celery to slow cooker, and then add broth and barley. Stir to combine.
6. Cook on low 6-7 hours. Season with salt and pepper before serving.