What makes this soup luxurious? In a nutshell, it's the generous dose of sherry. Sherry gives the broth an old world, restaurant with leather booths and white tablecloths kind of flavor. But don't leave out the little chunks of tender steak, sauteed shallot, the slender inner stalks (and leaves!) of celery, chewy barley, or the best quality beef cooking stock. It's all of a piece and it makes the most satisfying cold night soup ever.
One of my warmest food memories is walking home for lunch from elementary school and sitting down at the kitchen table with my mother over a bowl of soup. Canned. With Saltines on the side. And Beef Barley was one of my favorites. When I saw that my friend Sarah posted this Chicken Barley Soup I got inspired to recreate my childhood favorite. Minus the Saltines.
This is an old fashioned kind of soup without exotic spices or fancy techniques. I think the inner leaves of celery, like parsley, are an underrated and underused ingredient. I love the fresh flavor they add to soups and stews. I always reserve a handful to toss on as a garnish at the last minute.
Beef Barley Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb steak or lean beef, cut in bite sized pieces
salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp flour
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Season the beef with salt and pepper, then toss with the flour.
- Brown the beef on all sides over medium high heat and then set aside on a plate.
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 or 3 inner stalks of celery, sliced, leaves and all
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 26 oz box good quality beef stock
2 bay leaves
- Add the shallot, onion and celery to the pan and saute for a minute. Add a touch more oil if the pan is dry. Add in the barley and toast the barley for another minute, stirring constantly.
- Add in the Sherry and let it sizzle down, then add the beef stock and bay leaves. Bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and let simmer until the barley is tender, about 35-40 minutes.
1 more inner stalk of celery, sliced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Add the meat and any juices back into the pot, along with the carrots and last bit of celery. Add the Worcestershire sauce, and more salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer until the carrots soften but don't get mushy. Remove the bay leaves, and taste to adjust the seasonings.
- If you refrigerate the soup before serving it will thicken a bit, you can thin it down with extra water as you reheat.
Serve with some bread or rolls, and a salad for a complete winter dinner. Here's a sneak peek at what I made to go with our soup. I'll post the recipe later this week. Hint: they are fluffy, whole grain, and really really quick to make.