Do you know what it's like when you have something that tastes so utterly fantastic at a restaurant that you become obsessed with trying to recreate the recipe at home? (Hmmm, maybe that's just me!).
Last week, I had lunch with some dear friends at a downtown restaurant and had a delightful bowl of mushroom and barley soup that was so full of flavor, I had to figure out how to make it. Sometimes, being in an atmosphere of camaraderie makes everything taste better so I was anxious to see if my research and effort paid off. If you love mushrooms and mushroom soups, this is one of the best I've tried and was equally good as the restaurant version!
After all, it is November, or NovemBrrrr I should say! We had a couple of light frosts the last week of October and finally had to turn on the heat. If you are craving warm, earthy and comforting food, this mushroom and barley soup delivers! The savory, almost meaty, flavor of the mushrooms in a rich broth has a wonderful mouth-feel and the barley makes it satisfying bowl of soup. Just add some crusty bread, a salad, and perhaps a glass of wine.
Did you know mushrooms are good for you too? Rich in B vitamins and in disease-fighting phytochemicals, eating them regularly has been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer in studies of Chinese and Korean women. They have also prevented prostate cancer cells from multiplying in mice and might do the same in men. They are also a good source of selenium.
The leaves are falling, the winds are blowing and a chill is in the air. Let's have soup!
Mushroom and Barley Soup
Serves 6 to 8
1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms
1 ounce dried Shiitake mushrooms
4 strips meaty bacon, diced
1-1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 small onion, chopped into small dice
2 carrots, chopped into small dice
1 stalk celery, chopped into small dice
1 shallot, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound baby Portabella mushrooms, quartered and sliced
1-1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups vegetable stock
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped
Note: You can make this soup vegetarian by eliminating the bacon. Sauté the vegetables in oil and replace chicken stock with all vegetable stock. Please don't omit the dried mushrooms and reserved mushroom-soaking liquid. They are essential to the complex flavor of this soup. Amazon sells the Mycological Brand of dried mushrooms quite reasonably as an 'Add On' Item to your order.
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 3/4 cup hot water and soak to soften while proceeding with the rest of the recipe. Important - Reserve the soaking water!
In a soup pot over medium low heat, add the diced bacon sauté slowly, until evenly browned. Stir in the tomato paste and allow to caramelized just a bit.
Reduce the heat to low, and add the chopped onions, carrots, celery and shallot to the pot and sauté about 10-12 minutes, until softened.
Turn the heat back up to medium and add the garlic and mushrooms and saute until mushrooms release their moisture.
Remove the rehydrated mushrooms from the soaking water (reserving liquid), and chop.
Add the chopped, rehydrated mushrooms and the barley to the pot and mix to combine.
Add the dry sherry and soy sauce and simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the stocks and the reserved liquid from the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
Turn heat down to low and simmer soup, covered, for 60 to 90 minutes, until the barley is softened.
Add chopped parsley just before serving.
Tip: Freeze the rest of the unused tomato paste in 1 Tablespoon portions in plastic wrap bundles. Place inside a zipper bag and keep in the freezer until you need a small portion of tomato paste again.
Recipe inspired by Food 52