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With the first chill of autumn came a desire for a rich soup. My better half asked for beef barley, a childhood favorite. So after searching my cookbooks and the internet, I came upon a great recipe from Food Network star, Ina Garten. Served along with the recipe’s oxtails, the soup makes a complete meal that will satisfy even the most ardent carnivore.

It’s a relatively simple recipe, but I modified it slightly. The original recipe called for 10 cups of beef broth, but my local grocery only had two 32-ounce boxes available. Originally, I thought I would simple add some chicken stock to make up the difference. But then I thought that making up the difference with a broth made from soaking dried porcini would provide even more flavor with the added benefit of adding some mushrooms to the soup. I made my broth with a half cup of porcini, but regretted afterwards that I didn’t use more. So, as you will see in the recipe, I’ve upped the dried porcini to 1 cup.

As you may have noticed, this posting has far fewer photographs than is my norm. This is because I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe until I first tasted the soup for seasoning about mid-way through.

Rich Beef Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten recipe on foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 pounds beef oxtails
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery (2 stalks)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
8 cups canned beef broth
2 cups wild porcini broth (made from soaking 1 cup of dried porcini in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes)
1 cup pearled barley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the oxtails, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves. Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, the soaked porcini,1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.

Oxtails returned to the soup

Oxtails returned to the soup

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, and set aside.

When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper.

The finished soup

The finished, skimmed soup

Serve the soup hot together with the oxtails in heated bowls.

Wine Pairing: Zinfandel

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