Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley Soup
This recipe is inspired by the beef, leek and barley soup in “Home Cooking” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010), a memoir and cookbook by Laurie Colwin. It defies what you’re told you must do to make an exceptional soup: Brown your meat, add ingredients in layers, and taste as you go. Instead, just chop a few vegetables, put everything in a pot — or in this case, a slow cooker — then forget about it. This recipe builds satisfying, hearty flavors in a few key ways: The small quantity of dried mushrooms not only nods to mushroom-barley soup, but also creates an umami backdrop. Opt for chicken stock instead of beef, which is more consistently flavorful across brands. Use a collagen-rich cut of meat, like chuck or short ribs. And last, a long cook time allows flavors to deepen, without any babysitting.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 2pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces, or 2 to 3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs (3 to 4); see Tip
- 1quart chicken stock
- 3medium carrots, sliced 1/2-inch-thick
- 1large yellow onion, chopped
- ½cup pearl barley
- 2fresh thyme sprigs or 2 dried bay leaves
- ½ounce dried porcini, crushed or chopped into small pieces
- Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal) and black pepper
- 2teaspoons apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or lemon juice, plus more as needed
Step 1In a 5-to-8-quart slow cooker, add the beef, stock, carrots, onion, barley, thyme, porcini, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and 2 cups water. Stir to combine, cover and cook on low until the meat shreds when pulled with two forks, 6 to 8 hours.
Step 2If your soup has fat on the surface, skim it with a spoon. (The amount will vary, depending on your cut of meat.) Remove and discard the thyme. If using chuck, shred the meat using two forks right in the pot; if using short ribs, transfer to a cutting board and pull the meat away from the bones. Remove any excess fat and cartilage, then chop and shred the meat and return it to the slow cooker. Stir in the vinegar. If the flavors taste muted, add salt and vinegar. If it’s too mild, add more black pepper.