I was surprised that we haven't posted a classic mushroom barley soup yet. Mushrooms being quite famous around these parts, in that Michelle and I often have long conversations regaling their merit. DP also happens to be a huge fan so when anything has mushrooms, or mushrooms can be added, we know it's going to be a hit. Mushroom barley happens to be one of my favorite soups because it's so simple but really hearty and filling as well. Because there's no meat it also feels healthy and light.
I found a recipe that looked good on Saveur's site. What appealed to me most about it was the finish with lemon; I love that touch in most anything to give the dish a brightness and a small hit of acid at the end. However, I could tell that this soup was quite broth-y with 8 cups of stock and also the addition of the mushroom water from soaking the dried mushrooms. So I decided to use one of my favorite tricks on thickening soups or even sauces at the very end of cooking - a Beurre Manié. This method works essentially the same as a roux however you don't need to cook the fat and flour separately and can just knead the two together. Also I've read that a roux can lose its thickening ability over long periods of cooking time so a beurre manie works a lot better in soups. I like to use the pestle from my mortar and pestle set and work it together in a small dish. A fork also works just great for this as well. Just make sure you're working with softened butter instead of melted. I like to nuke my butter for 20 seconds if I don't have any pre-softened.
This soup with the addition of the thickener turned out so wonderful. Adding the butter gave it a richness and then the lemon brightened the whole soup up to create a great balance. I really loved it and will keep this as my go to mushroom barley from now on. I served it with some garlic bread loaded with fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh parsley and S&P. And some red wine, natch. All in all a great winter meal!
Mushroom Barley Soup
adapted from Saveur
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (I used shiitake because my grocer was out of porcini)
1/4 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb. white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry
8 cups beef stock
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 tsp. fresh thyme
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh parsley, for garnish
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp. unbleached flour
1. Place dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a lid and let sit for 30 minutes. While these are brewing chop up your veggies and garlic. After 30 minutes take the rehydrated mushrooms out with a slotted spoon and finely chop. Pour soaking liquid through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl, leaving a small amount to retain any dirt or sediment.
2. Heat oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, carrots and onion; saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add re-hydrated mushrooms and sliced button mushrooms; saute until liquid is released and evaporated, about 14 minutes. Add sherry and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add reserved mushroom water, beef broth, barley and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for about 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Prepare beurre manie by blending together butter and flour in a small bowl until fully incorporated. Add to soup pot at the very end of cooking and mix until melted. Allow to thicken for a few minutes then add lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.