This is what I would call a ‘Franken-soup.’ It’s not a traditional cream of mushroom soup, it’s not a beef and barley stew; it’s made of bits of different things, thrown together by this mad scientist of a cook. It’s its own strange and delicious, mish-mosh soup.
I really like how, if you simply omit the sausage (or cook it separately) you can make a great vegetarian soup to serve to a mixed crowd. It’s hearty and filling, and, dare I say, even suitable for game-day? Don’t worry, it’s man-approved; my fireman called it both ‘rich’ and ‘a keeper.’ This soup is really creamy and decadent tasting, but, aside from a little butter, there’s nothing in there that’s bad for you.
Creamy Mushroom and Barley Soup
Serves 4-6 – cost approx $1.30 per serving
- 1 1/2 cup pearl barley ($.75)
- 1/2 stick butter, divided use ($.30)
- 1 onion, medium dice ($.17)
- 1 leek, white part medium dice ($.50)
- 3 ribs celery, medium dice ($.17)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 6 oz mushrooms, cleaned, caps thinly sliced, reserve the stems – I got some nice shiitakes from my Mama-Bear-in-Law’s farmer’s market, but use whatever you like! ($3)
- 1/4 cup All Purpose flour
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups milk ($.38)
- 2 Tbs parsley, minced
- 1 Tbs thyme, minced
- salt and black pepper – to taste
- 1 12 oz package of fully cooked beef sausage, thinly sliced ($.99)
Put the barley in a pot and cover with water 1-2 inches and boil until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Drain and reserve.
Heat 2 Tbs of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion, leek, celery, garlic and mushroom stems for 5-10 minutes.
Add in the flour and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the flour is golden in color (a blonde roux). Add in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer, simmer gently for 30 minutes or so. Next, puree the mixture until very smooth. (I find an immersion blender works best.) Now, strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer or a few layers of cheese cloth. This step is optional when considering the flavor of the soup, but does a great deal to making the texture of the soup smooth and velvety. Bring the strained broth back up to a simmer.
In another pan, heat another 1-2 Tbs of butter and saute the mushroom caps. Next, add in the sliced sausage and heat up and brown slightly. Add the mushrooms, sausage, fresh herbs and milk to the simmering broth.
If you want to increase the thickness of your soup, you can add a beurre manie. This is similar to a roux, all you do is mix equal parts room temperature butter and flour to form a paste. Then you stir the paste into a simmering liquid and it gets thicker. I added about 2 Tbs of beurre manie to my soup to get the consistency just right.
Adjust the seasonings in the soup, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Lastly, mix in the barley and you’re ready to grab your spoon and slurp away!