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Saturday, October 17, 2009

French Onion Soup with Beef & Barley. Yum.

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, the dinner I had at my parents' house last weekend was one of the best soups I've ever tasted.  The recipe is from Cooking Light Magazine, and combines two of my all time favorite soups into one easy, healthier version that's so simple even I can make it. 

I realize that this picture looks gross, but it's the best one I got before I couldn't wait to eat it any longer.

The recipe is a combination of French Onion & Beef Barley soups.  It calls for lots of mushrooms, so it automatically scores double points, because I looooove mushrooms.  I made it Wednesday night, and on Friday night, it tasted even better when I reheated it.  It's an absolute must to have a good, crusty baguette with this soup.

  • 1  cup  boiling water
  • 1/2  ounce  dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1  tablespoon  dark sesame oil, divided
  • 2  medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2  cup  chopped shallots or onion
  • 2  teaspoons  chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 4  garlic cloves, minced
  • 3  cups  sliced button mushrooms
  • 1  teaspoon  brown sugar
  • 1  (12-ounce) lean boneless sirloin steak, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 4  cups  water
  • 2/3  cup  uncooked pearl barley
  • 1/4  cup  dry sherry
  • 3  tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1  (10 1/2-ounce) can beef consommé
  • 12  (1/4-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
* Note: you may omit the ginger, but I recommend against it... it really added a nice flavor profile to the soup.  I did not add ginger to my batch, and deeply regretted it with every spoonful.


Reconstitute the dried shiitakes in boiling water for 15-20 minutes.  Reserve the cooking water.  Let the mushrooms cool, then chop up all of your "chopables."

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, shallots, ginger, and garlic; sauté 10 min. or until lightly browned. Add the shiitakes, button mushrooms, sugar, and beef. Sauté 10 minutes, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add reserved mushroom liquid, 4 cups water, and the next 4 ingredients (water through consommé); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 50 minutes or until barley is tender. I needed to simmer mine longer, because the barley was a bit under-cooked, and the sirloin was at this awful "dry as s***" phase.  (James informed me that sirloin was a poor choice of meat for this soup, but it has less fat, so I used it.)  Stir in 1 teaspoon sesame oil (I forgot to do this).

Ladle the soup over large slices of the crusty bread, which you can toast in the oven to make it better.  Sprinkle cheese on top, or you can prepare it like the real recipe says, but you need oven-proof bowls, and I didn't want to deal with that.

Apparently, according to the website, this soup can be frozen for up to two months, but I highly doubt that you'll have any leftover to freeze, unless you make extra.  It's goooo-oood (said like Uncle Eddy from Nat'l Lampoon's Christmas Vacation).

When I made this, I cooked it for about an hour, and then ate it.  I was disappointed with the results, because the barley was undercooked and the meat was dry as a bone.  When James got home (the soup was still warm and had continued to cook), the meat and barley were perfect, so I suggest cooking it longer.  Definitely try the sirloin before you take it off the heat to tell whether it's finished.  According to chef James (who constantly chides me for my lack of cooking skills or knowledge), sirloin goes through various stages of cooking: perfectly done, dry as s***, and fall apart goodness.  Fall apart goodness doesn't happen until all of the proteins start to break down, so I hadn't hit that point in the cooking process when I ladled my dinner.  It was delicious on Friday night, however.   The addition of the mushrooms to the soup give it a really hearty flavor, and the massive amounts of protein from the beef and barley fill you up rather quickly.  It's pretty fool-proof, as long as you cook it for the right length of time.  I am definitely adding this to my arsenal of comfort food recipes, because it was an instant favorite.

The weather has been unseasonably cold here in New England, which I can't complain about, because I love the colder weather.  I feel like I've been fighting off a bug for weeks now, and am hoping that it won't get the best of me.  I've been loading up on chai tea (for the healthful antioxidants, as well as the deliciousness), sleep, and healthier foods lately, so hopefully I won't succumb to whatever crappy bug has been floating around work.  October is by far my favorite month, because it's the beginning of fall, there's Halloween, and it's acceptable to wear sweaters and scarves every day without jackets.  Perfection.  Hope everyone is enjoying it!! :o)

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