Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Beef and Barley Soup

As late December gives way to early January, I find myself experiencing an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, I am eager to begin the new year, resume our normal routine, and get the house back in order. At the same time, I find myself in no huge rush to get all of the Christmas things put away and have the season come to an end.
These same sentiments also apply to the food of the season. One the one hand it's nice to be cleaning up the treats and party foods. On the other hand, we miss all of the good food of the season. 
For a number of years now, we have elected to prepare a prime rib roast for our Christmas dinner. It's really quite easy to prepare, and we prefer not to spend a whole lot of time on Christmas Day preparing dinner. Even with our family's appetite, we can typically get a good meal or two of leftovers from the roast. After that, I use the final remnants of the roast and the gravy to make beef and barley soup. Knowing that we will be making soup, we tend to leave a rather generous amount of meat on the rib rack and we set aside an additional slice or two of roast as well. I've really not used a recipe to make the soup so I will do my best to describe the process as I go. As a point of reference, I am making my soup in a 12-quart stock pot, and am using the remnants of a 3-rib roast.

Step 1: Cover the rib rack with water and simmer in a large stock pot for about an hour or so. This will allow any extra meat to fall off the bones. Boiling the bones also helps create the stock for the soup.

Step 2: Remove the bones from the broth. Skim off and discard any excess fat from the broth. Cut off the remaining meat from the bones and cut into smaller pieces. I tend to make my pieces rather small since this is a soup rather than a stew. Cut up any reserved slices of beef as well. Return all beef to the stock pot. Discard the bones.

Step 3: Stir in any leftover gravy and beef broth that you may have from preparing the roast. These tend to add some great extra flavor to the soup and limit the need for any additional seasoning.

Step 4: Now for the vegetables. To be honest, you really can just go with what you like in a soup. Here is what I included in this batch.
  • One heaping soupspoon of chopped garlic
  • One medium sweet onion
  • Celery. (Note: we had bought a bag of two celery hearts, both of which were rather small. After I chopped up the first one and added it to the soup, it wasn't enough so I  chopped up and added the second one.
  • Green beans - approximately 1.5 - 2 cups (Note: I used a bag of frozen green beans, and this is the approximate volume of green beans that I put in a freezer bag when freezing vegetables from our garden. You could also substitute fresh.)
  • Carrots - approximately 3 - 4 cups. (Note: I used 2 of our prepared freezer bags. Feel free to substitute fresh in their place.)
  • One 11 oz. can of Niblets corn.
Step 5: The seasonings. Again, feel free to use what you like. For the most part, I just use salt and pepper to taste and add about 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. Allow the soup to simmer together until the vegetables are cooked.

Step 6: Prepare the barley. You can actually start this step at any point in the process. I always prepare the barley separately and then stir it into the soup. Use one cup of barley and 2.5 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and cook until done, about 45 minutes. Once the barley is cooked, stir it into the soup.

Step 7: Adjust seasonings as desired. If the beef broth is tasting a little weak, add a beef bullion cube or two, a spoonful of beef base, or some Kitchen Bouquet.

Serve with warm bread or cornbread. This soup also freezes well. With fewer of us living at home these days, we often find it convenient to make a large batch of soup and then freeze some for another meal or two later. We use the 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bags, and they hold up well in the freezer.