Remember my soup-making streak? The one that lasted about a month in the dead of winter? That's one thing I'll miss about the cold--sometimes, there's nothing more comforting than putting on a big pot of soup and waiting for it to simmer itself to it's greatest potential. Judging from the almost-70-degree weather today, those days are quickly coming to a close (not that I'm complaining). We've got maybe another couple of weeks to take advantage of the lingering chill in the air and make our last batches of hearty soups and stews. Like this one here.
Ever since I was a kid, beef and barley soup has been one of my standard go-to elixirs. I order it at restaurants, ladle it into paper take-out containers at delis, and buy it by the pint at places like Whole Foods or Dean & Deluca. But I'd never attempted a homegrown version until I came across a recipe for it in Ina Garten's newest cookbook, How Easy Is That? In this iteration, Garten uses rich, fatty oxtails in place of regular stewing meat like beef chuck for a broth that's flavorful and substantial. It steers away from the classic a bit, but is completely gratifying in it's own right, and the perfect thing to eat all week long when you're too busy to cook every night. Try it and let me know how you think it compares. xo
Rich Beef and Barley Soup
From How Easy is That?, by Ina Garten
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 lbs beef oxtails
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
10 cups canned beef stock (Ina says she uses College Inn brand beef broth)
1 cup pearled barley
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, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp 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.
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 15-20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper. serve hot, with or without the oxtails.
Cook's Note: I let the soup cool down quite a bit before adding in the barley, so that it would be easier to skim the fat off the top. It's important to get as much off as possible so you're not left with an oily soup.