While “Deep Flavors” is a kosher-style cookbook, the recipes are eclectic, Tex/Mex to Cajun to Jewish soul food, to French, etc. This recipe is just one example, derived from a soup that my grandmother and Mom made, strongly influenced by ingredients available in Western Russia in the late 1800s. While it is somewhat different from what my great-grandmother would have served, other recipes, such as my Texas State Fair Blue Ribbon Mushroom-Spinach Lasagna, use regionally available ingredients in a unique and creative combination. However, all adhere to my goal of wonderful traditional flavor, and the soup ingredients, the barley, split pea, mushroom, and potato flavors, were available in Russia and are accessible to the American home cook while meeting the laws of kashruth. Variants of mushroom/barley soup (although rarely as good as homemade) are served in many Jewish delicatessens. As with other recipes in “Deep Flavors” (for example, Bouillabaisse à La Juive), this recipe is intended to be made in a kosher kitchen but is equally attractive to the non-Jewish or vegetarian/vegan cook. It certainly meets the standard of “Deep Flavors.”
This classic soup is actually four different soups with a common theme but very different flavor profiles.
about 3 carrots, roughly chopped
1–1½ yellow or sweet onions, chopped
2–3 celery stalks, diced
1–2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons oil (canola or similar unflavored oil), mixed-use
2 ounces dried porcini, trumpet, and/or chanterelle mushrooms
1 pound of fresh sliced cremini or white button mushrooms
2–3 quarts stock: beef, chicken, turkey, or vegetable as appropriate
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2–3 bay leaves
2 cups medium pearl barley
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 potato, diced (optional)
1 cup dried split peas (optional)
1 cup lentils (optional)
about 2 cups of the relevant meat (optional): beef, turkey, or chicken in bite-sized pieces
First, it is preferable to have a quality and appropriate stock. For turkey soup (my personal favorite), a wonderful turkey stock is preferable, although a homemade chicken stock can be used. Boxed turkey, beef, and vegetable broths, among others, are now available. See the recipe for Roasted Turkey in Chapter 11 of “Deep Flavors;” turkey stock is a wonderful by-product of preparing a turkey. Similarly, for beef soup, a wonderful homemade beef stock is best. The same applies to chicken stock or, for the vegetarian version, a rich vegetable stock. Recipes for beef stock and chicken stock can be found in Chapter 6 of “Deep Flavors.” There are many wonderful recipes for stock in multiple cookbooks; Julia Child is a wonderful resource in this regard.
Once you have the stock, the recipe is incredibly simple, and the proportions flexible. For a 6-quart saucepan, sauté the fresh mushrooms in the oil until the liquid is rendered and evaporates with the mushrooms browned. Add the carrots, 1 to 1½ onions, 2 or 3 stalks of celery, and 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, all finely diced. Sweat, but do not brown the vegetables.
Dried porcini, trumpet, and chanterelle mushrooms, separately or mixed are intensely flavorful. You should reconstitute them as indicated in Chapter 2 of “Deep Flavors,” being sure to pick up and drain the mushrooms in a way that leaves the sand in the liquid to be settled and separated, allowing the sandy dregs to be discarded. Use a couple ounces of dried mushrooms. I do not use an Asian-style mushroom such as shiitake, wood ear, etc. in this soup — the flavor is wrong.
Add stock and mushroom-reconstituting liquid to fully cover the sautéed mushrooms and vegetables, being careful not to overfill the pot. Remember that like rice, each cup of barley will absorb 2 to 3 cups of liquid. Add the chopped reconstituted mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaves. Sometimes I dice potato and add it to the soup. Sometimes I add dried split peas to this soup. Lentils would be good in this soup but cook quickly, so they should be added late in the cooking process.
For beef soup, use beef chuck cut into 1-inch or smaller cubes. Brown the chuck before adding it to the soup, and be sure to deglaze the pot in which the chuck was browned to not waste the fond. Cook the soup for at least one hour before adding the barley for another hour — the chuck (if you are using beef) will need this total time to allow the meat to become tender.
Add 1½ to 2 cups of barley. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt for each cup of barley, plus more to taste as needed (remembering the other ingredients that need some salt). The barley takes at least one hour to cook. Barley adds a wonderful flavor and creaminess to the soup after it has fully cooked. Al dente is not the goal for the barley here; you want it fully cooked. These soups are all seriously better the next day.
For the chicken or turkey barley soup, the meat cooks quickly. You can add diced-up raw chicken thighs or turkey thighs about a ½ hour before serving, while the barley should be added earlier at the same time as the vegetables.
Obviously, the vegetarian version has no added meat.
Note that before serving, you will have to reseason the soups with salt and pepper, and you may have to adjust the salt because barley and potatoes will absorb a huge amount of salt. However, be careful not to oversalt. Add water if necessary.
I serve these soups with pumpernickel or rye bread. The bread is delicious with schmaltz (see the recipe in “Deep Flavors”) brushed on lightly, sprinkled with salt, and toasted in the oven. These soups are a most delicious and ultimate form of comfort food, to say the least. There is nothing much better on a winter evening than one of these soups.
About the author: Kenneth M. Horwitz, JD, LLM (Tax), CPA, practices as a lawyer in a general tax, estate planning, and transaction practice. Mr. Horwitz developed a creative and focused approach in finding and fixing problems, a skill that translates well to his passion for developing recipes based on traditional family favorites, tailored to personal taste and dietary needs. His desire to preserve and communicate that work led to “DEEP FLAVORS.”