Look at all those beautiful vegetables up there! Any soup made with those should be fabulous, right? But, I made this soup for the group of 13 tonight and we had mixed feelings about it. It was a new recipe for me, so I followed it exactly. I usually like to do that the first time around. The comments I got were that it was delicious, but a few thought it could have used more flavor and one of the little ones didn’t finish his bowl…hmmm. Everyone else finished and a few went back for seconds, so I would say overall, it was a good, solid soup, but lacked wow factor. Maybe that’s because it’s vegetable barley soup, which in itself is good, comforting, but not stunning…sort of like your favorite slippers. I think I would make it again, maybe try and tweak it a bit (maybe add a dried chile to the leek mix to stew or prosciutto…), but for now, I would definitely recommend it for a midweek meal, but not a Saturday night for company meal.
Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, November-December 2011
Serves 6-8 (I doubled this for my crew)
The recipe says it took 1 hour, but when I doubled it, it was 2 hours including prep time
1/8 oz dried porcini mushrooms
8 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 3 tbsp chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 lbs leeks, white and light green parts sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tsp soy sauce
sea salt and pepper
6 cups water
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
1/2 cup pearl or hulled barley
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 turnip, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp lemon juice
Grind porcini with spice grinder until they resemble fine meal, 10-30 seconds. Measure out 2 tsps porcini powder, reserve remainder for another use. Using kitchen twine, tie together parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaf.
Melt butter in large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, wine, soy sauce and 2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and celery is softened, about 10-15 minutes.
Add water, broth, barley, porcini powder, herb bundle, and garlic. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer, partially covered for 25 minutes.
Add potatoes, turnip and cabbage and return to simmer and cook until barley, potatoes, turnip and cabbage are tender, about 18-20 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and remove herb bundle. Stir in peas, lemon juice and chopped parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing Lemon-Thyme Butter separately.
The Lemon-Thyme Butter is meant to add a last infusion of flavor and you make it like this:
6 tbsp of butter, softened
1 tbsp fresh thyme
3/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest plus 1/4 tsp juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. (I forgot the zest and just added juice and salt. I think the zest would definitely have added some zing)
Some other recommendations to top it with include bacon, cheddar cheese or herbed croutons.