It snowed a few inches on Saturday morning—a real wallop. While Kevin hated it, seeing it as a sign that winter was digging its heels in, I quite liked it. The snow itself was pretty—big, snowglobe flakes that floated lazily to the already blanketed earth. And, besides that, it provided a perfect excuse to spend the day inside, hunkered down.
So hunker we did. Kevin watched a Chicago Bulls championship series game from the late nineties on TV (I am so not kidding) and I puttered around the kitchen. It was quiet and relaxing and a just perfect Saturday. One of the best things to emerge from the day (aside from, surprise!, a Bulls win), was a steaming, simmering pot of soup.
It was a mushroom barley soup and, let me tell you, it was no small feat to get Kevin—a staunch fungus-phobe—to agree to a recipe title like that. I assured him that not one speck of mushroom flesh would appear in his bowl and, to his credit, he trusted me. It took a little creativity but I delivered on my promise and you know what? He loved it.
To get the mushroom flavor into the soup, without using the mushrooms themselves, I steeped dried porcinis in boiling water, drained out the plumped mushrooms and used the steeping liquid to supplement the soup’s beef broth and water base. I chopped and reserved the mushrooms. Meanwhile, I sauteed some vegetables in butter, added a bit of flour to act as a thickener and added the barley, which simmered slowly in the earthy, flavorful broth. Just before ladling out the soup, I lined the bottom of my bowl with some of the chopped porcinis. So my bowl was mushroom-flecked and Kevin’s was just mushroom-flavored. Everybody wins.
Mushroom Barley Soup
Adapted from Zingermann’s Recipe
1/2 cup dried mushrooms, such as porcini
6 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced onion
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 quart (4 cups) beef broth
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup barley
Boil 2 cups of the water. Pour it over the dried mushrooms, cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain and chop the mushrooms and reserve the steeping liquid.
Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic and cook for several minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add the flour add stir to coat the vegetables; cook one minute stirring constantly.
Add the beef broth, remaining 4 cups of water, steeping liquid, thyme and barley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, until the barley is al dente. Discard the thyme and add the chopped mushrooms, cooking briefly until the mushrooms are warm.