Friday, March 5, 2010

The Last Winter Stew?

Could it be? Could it possibly be that last night's beef and barley is the last winter stew that I'll make this season? It sure seems that way with temperatures promising to rise into the 50s tomorrow and hold steady until at least next Friday. Of course, this could just be a typical March teaser. March likes to torment us with it's identity crisis. Is it winter? Is it spring? March plays both roles. It would not be at all out of character to take a dip back into winter late in the month. But today, the snow is already melting.

As we have had more snow this year than in the last five years combined, there have been many gripes and grumbles about the weather lately. I, however, have no complaints. My emotions and mood are very sensitive to the weather but it's not the dreary, sunless days that most people associate with S.A.D. that have an adverse affect on me. For the past few years, we've had mild winters but they've also been indecisive winters. 30 degrees one day, 60 degrees the next, and so on and so forth, for months on end. While some relish in the momentary and fleeting warmth, I feel like Mother Nature is toying with me. I feel jerked around.

This winter there haven't been those lapses into spring-like weather. It turned cold in December and it has pretty much stayed that way until now, March. Which is how it should be in the winter. Things feel in balance, not all topsy-turvy and out of whack.
(I reflect on this purely on a local level. The victims of the recent natural disasters in other parts of the world are ever-present in my thoughts and I am deeply aware that they do not feel that the world is in balance at this moment).

I knew I wanted to make one last hearty winter soup before the end of the season so I settled on this Beef and Barley which I adapted from The Kitchn. I served them with Herb Gruyere Biscuits, a recipe that I found on Viola with Emily. (I won't post that recipe since I followed the one on Emily's blog almost exactly. My only modifications were to use a little chopped fresh rosemary instead of the sage and I used just 1 stick of butter, instead of 1 1/2 sticks that the original recipe calls for).

Beef and Barley Stew Soup (The original recipe was for a stew but I added much more liquid making this more of a soup than a stew)

2 pound chuck roast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
4 celery stalks, medium slices
3 carrots, medium slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 cups beef stock
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup barley
salt and pepper

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large soup pot on medium high heat. Add the meat cubes, in a single layer and brown on all sides (about 2-3 minutes on each side). Remove the meat and pour any remaining liquid over it. Set aside.

Using the same pot, add a little more oil and once heated add the onions. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and the garlic. Saute for another 3-4 minutes or until slightly tender (this soup is going to cook for a long time so you don't want the veggies to get too tender just yet).

Pour the wine in the pan to deglaze and cook until most of the wine is reduced - about 5 minutes. Add the tsp. of Worcestershire sauce, the beef, and then the beef and chicken broths. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the barley (and water if needed) and simmer for another 30-45 minutes - or until meat and barley are both tender.

Since I served this with the Gruyere cheese biscuits, I topped the soup with a little grated Gruyere cheese, just to tie things all together.

Note: After making this, I really think that a good quality meat is essential to this dish. I found a really nice looking 2 pound roast at the grocery store that had a nice thin marble running through it. As I was chopping it up, it had a nice rich and deep aroma, even before I started cooking it. It was a little pricey but in retrospect it was worth every penny. My husband said that it was the most flavorful and tender beef that I'd ever made.


  1. This post was entirely unfair. There is no possible way I can make this as a bedtime snack! And yet it sounds and looks like something I would really LOVE to be eating right about now!

  2. We had snow again yesterday too, but it was a really wimpy snow. It's almost all gone. The temperature is very cold today, and should be tomorrow as well, but it feels like a weak cold, if you know what I mean. The days are getting longer and there's a soft edge to the air. Spring is on the way...

  3. Julie - I don't know, perhaps not the beef stew, but a glass of milk and a cheese biscuit? I think that may pass for a bedtime snack. :)

    Kate - I love that feeling of spring coming. It makes me anxious to start planting!

  4. I've been making beef and barley stew and I'll happily eat it for another month! But then again, I'm a bit north of you and it's still cold and warrants it! You're right, good meat is key!