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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cooper's Super Soup -- Four Mushroom Barley

With all the rain we’ve been getting lately in NC (sorry West Coast!), it seems like an excellent time to feature another of Cooper's Super Soups...Four Mushroom Barley. This one goes great with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, though it's certainly hearty enough to stand on its own. However you want to do it, it's mmm mmm great. This soup got the Two Thumbs Up from Dad.

Four Mushroom Barley Soup

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
4 tbsp butter
2 cups (16 oz.) small white mushrooms, whole
2 portobello caps, cut in half, thinly sliced
3/4 cup (6 oz.) shitake mushrooms
1/3 cup sherry
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 bay leaves
1/2-1 tsp ground marjoram
pinch of dried dill weed
7 cups mushroom stock (see recipe below)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

Place porcinis in 1 cup of boiling water, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes. Once rehydrated, drain the porcinis, but reserve the water. Once the mushrooms are cool, chop them up.

Melt butter in stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Throw in mixed mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes or until softened and reduced.

While stirring the mushrooms, add the sherry and let cook for a minute or two so the mushrooms can soak up the flavor. To intensify the flavor, allow the liquid to reduce a bit.

Stir in onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.

Mix in barley, bay leaves, marjoram, and dill then cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the reserved water from the porcinis, the mushroom broth, and crushed tomatoes. Let simmer covered for about 50 minutes, or until barley reaches desired level of cooking.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cooper's Thoughts

Lessons I learned from my first attempt making this soup:

  • Barley grows a lot and is very thirsty. First try had 1-1/2 cups of barley. It made for a great risotto.
  • The first time, I used some "fancy" mushrooms (maitake and white beech) in this soup, but they were too mild in flavor to notice. They weren't worth the extra expense.
  • Porcinis might be the only fancy mushroom worth spending the extra money on and should not be left out.
  • I would make a couple of minor modifications only if you are planning on serving most or all of the soup the day/night of. A little more barley could be added (no more than a 1/4 cup) if you cook the barley to al dente. It will continue to grow in the fridge overnight though (you were warned!). Also, diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes might be better the first serving. After chilling, however, the crushed tomatoes made this soup perfect!
  • For the stock on this soup, I had about 6 cups of my sweet and spicy mushroom broth left over and a cup of boxed chicken stock sitting in the fridge. Hopefully you saved the scraps from the Root Vegetable Soup, because that's what goes into the yummy stock (below).

Mushroom Stock

3 quarts of water
All the trimmings from the sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, carrots, and celery root (remove the stems from the celery root, but add a few leaves back in, maybe 4-5).
1 onion, quartered
4 portobello stems
Stems from 8 oz of shiitake
Gills from 2-4 portobellos
2 jalapenos, cut in half

Toss all ingredients in a stock pot and simmer for an hour.

Strain and set aside for later. As an aside, when I made this stock it was for another soup. I almost stopped at just the stock because it was so tasty!

This stock is incredibly flavorful, so it will overpower mild flavors (such as the dill that was added), but it really highlights the mushroomy flavor and adds a bit of heat that keeps everyone wondering where the peppers are.