Remember the old Campbell’s Soup advertising slogan, “Soup is Good Food”? It was a brilliant stroke of marketing genius. Unfortunately, the company was forced to pull that ad campaign in the late Eighties as a result of a legal issue, partially due to the products’ high sodium content. Since then, Campbell’s has launched a whole line of healthier, lower sodium soups. Good for them! Sadly, some of their soups, as well as several other brands, still contain some ingredient “no nos” such as MSG and high fructose corn syrup. But, that doesn’t mean that soup can’t still be good food. It can be, and is, very good food, especially when it’s homemade from your very own kitchen.
Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our temperatures were expected to dip into a decidedly “Fall-like” range. In fact, we actually had a few days where it never broke 70 degrees F. That’s a big deal around here! I decided to take advantage of the situation and make some good, old-fashioned, simmer on the stove all day, beef barley soup.
Most “made from scratch” soups are really not that difficult to accomplish. The key to a great soup is to start with a rich, flavorful stock. Once you have that, you can play around with different ingredients until you have the perfect soup for you.
I start my beef stock with a variety of different kinds of beef and beef bones, depending on what I can find at the market. My ideal combination is a mixture of beef marrow bones, oxtail and short ribs. To make a big pot of stock that will feed my family for a couple of nights, I use about 2-3 pounds of each. After I rinse and dry them, I lay them out on a baking sheet and toss them with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Then, I roast them for about 60-90 minutes, until they are nice and browned.
After that, I dump them into a large stock pot along with all of the pan drippings and add carrots, celery and onions. I fill the pot with a mixture of beef broth and water until the beef is totally submerged and bring it all to a boil. When boiling, I reduce the heat and let the contents of the pot simmer for a good three or four hours. Then, I remove the meat and bones back to the baking sheet to cool. While the meat cools, I add the barley and whatever vegetables I plan to use and continue to simmer the soup for another hour. For convenience, I usually take a few packages of frozen mixed vegetables and toss them in as well. When cooled, I take the meat off of the bones and reserve. About ten minutes before I’m ready to serve the soup, I add the meat back in and heat it through.
I have to say, there is nothing that hits the spot better on a chilly evening quite like a nice, steaming hot bowl of hearty and delicious beef barley soup.
Beef Barley Soup
2-3 pounds short ribs
2-3 pounds beef marrow bones
2-3 pounds oxtail or beef shank for soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 carrots, scrubbed and cut into 3 inch chunks
4 ribs celery, scrubbed and cut into 3 inch chunks
2 large onions, quartered
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 quarts canned beef broth (You can omit this and use all water, but I always like to give my stock a little boost.)
5-6 quarts water
2-3 cups quick cooking barley, depending on how much you like in your soup
1 large package frozen mixed vegetables (or any vegetables you like to use in soup)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Rinse ribs, oxtails and bones and pat dry. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 1 hour or until nice and browned.
Pour off as much of the fat as you can and discard. Put the ribs, bones and pan drippings into a large stock pot. Add carrots, celery, onions, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme to the pot. Pour in beef broth and add water until liquid covers the contents of the pot by one inch.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for approximately 3 hours. Periodically, skim off any scum or icky stuff that forms on the top.
Remove short ribs, oxtails and bones. Set aside to cool. Strain stock into another pot and discard the vegetables and herbs. Bring to a simmer.
Add vegetables and barley to the stock and continue to simmer uncovered until barley is tender.
Remove the meat from the bones, add to the soup and heat through.
Here are some other great cold weather soup recipes from the SGCC archives:
Soupe au Pistou