Story last updated at 9/4/2013 - 6:51 pm
Juneau has experienced some incredible weather this summer. I believe that it makes up for the miserable summer we had last year. I am assuming Mother Nature got the strongly worded memo I sent in April firmly requesting a better summer than last year. Normally in late August the autumn rains have begun and locals start preparing for the wet season and subsequently winter.
Last Saturday was a typical August day. The rain came down in buckets, the winds blew and the skies were gray and ominous. I actually love this kind of weather. I find it comforting. I try hard to not leave my house, preferring to hunker down with a good book, or reruns of NCIS. I also like to cook comfort food. There’s something fulfilling about stirring a large pot of soup or stew while the weather rages outside and I’m warm and cozy inside.
When I go for comfort food, I usually go for beef. I love the richness of a good beef stew or soup. I was also feeling a bit nostalgic and missing my daughters. This made me want to make something they loved. My first thought was beef barley soup. Sami, my eldest daughter loves beef barley soup. What a great dish for a cold, windy day. It’s easy to make and the aromas that fill the house are heartwarming and comforting.
I also wanted to make something that would appeal to Grant because I knew he would be out on the water with charter trips all day. How very nice of me trying to be the good wife by having a hot meal ready when he came through the door. Wouldn’t you agree?
Soup is by far one of my most favorite dishes to make. I enjoy the chopping, the stirring, the simmering and especially the tasting. By the time the soup is actually done, I’m usually not terribly hungry because I’ve tasted at least a serving’s worth. Oh I do love quality control.
There are two ways to make beef barley soup. One is with beef sirloin cubes cut into bite-sized pieces. Another is with ground beef. For those true Alaskans, moose, venison or caribou can easily substitute. I prefer the sirloin cubes to ground beef because I like the consistency of the beef when it’s slowed cooked.
As the rain and wind pelted the windows, I cranked up the music and set to cooking. A few tips to make your soup perfect. First, don’t salt the beef before you brown it. That will pull moisture from the beef and rather than get the yummy crispy bits on the bottom of the pan you get brown juice. While that probably will taste fine, the well browned meat has excellent flavor. Another tip, barley expands. Even when you think you might not have enough, don’t add more. I tell you this because one cup of barley is a lot of barley. It will absorb all the liquid in the pot, fill up your pan and then you will have barley…something, but it’s not soup. So, go easy on it. Start with a quarter cup and add a little more if you prefer it. Finally, cut your vegetables into similar sizes. It helps to cook evenly and for some reason makes eating it better.
While I write this article, the sun is blazing and we are again enjoying a beautiful autumn afternoon. I shall not be fooled though. I know that sooner or later Mother Nature will unleash her stormy personality upon us once again and we will be swept up in the rain and winds. To this I say, “Thank you Mother Nature for a great summer, and I’m looking forward to an equally fantastic winter.”
This week, I present to you a recipe easy to make rain or shine: Beef Barley Soup.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
Kelly Moore, a.k.a. Midgi, writes and cooks from Juneau. Visit her blog, www.mealswithmidgi.com, for additional stories and recipes. She may be reached at midgi@
BEEF BARLEY SOUP
1 pound beef sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup carrots, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons dried time
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
¼ - ½ cup barley
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat large Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add oil and bring to medium high temperature. Add beef in single layer and brown well on all sides. Remove beef and add in vegetables. Cook well until onions are slightly translucent. Poor in 1 cup of beef broth and use spoon to scrape bottom of the pan (this is the yummy bits with a lot of flavor). Return beef to pot and add three additional cups of broth and continue to stir. Add seasonings and salt and pepper. Simmer until beef is tender and can be cut easily with side of fork or spoon. About 2 hours. It may take longer if using game such as moose or caribou.
Add ¼ cup barley and continue to simmer about 10-15 minutes. You may add additional barley to your tastes.
Remove bay leaves and serve.