Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beef and Barley Soup

My paternal grandparents lived in Oklahoma while I was growing up.  Every other year, we had a vacation to visit them.  Mom drove during the day and Dad drove at night.  Straight through, we stopped to use the bathroom and eat.  Most of two days.  Happy times. 

Once we got there, in rural Northwestern Oklahoma, it wasn't much better.  I remember arriving one time and being so happy to be out of the car, that I ran out along the sidewalk, through the car port and into the lawn only to come running back crying because I had stepped into red ants in the grass.  Let's just say they sting.  They don't have red ants in Oregon.  I didn't know you can't run around bare foot, until then.

I was, well, a busy child.  To keep me from going crazy, mom and I would cook in Grandma's kitchen.  Everything from cookies to pot roast.  All day.  I never stopped being amazed by the depths of her freezer and pantry.  She had food put by that would have lasted for months.  She had raised small children during the Depression, right there.  And she learned to put the things she needed aside.  

One year a package arrived.  It contained a cookbook from Grandma in Oklahoma.  Here it is.  I'm 50 now and this happened when I was a teenager, so this cookbook as seen a few things.  It has tape all over it and splatters of who know what throughout.  My handwriting is on many pages. 

It is from this book that I started making Beef and Barley Soup, so heres to you, Grandma in Oklahoma.

Beef and Barley Soup
In a large soup kettle, 2 T. Canola oil, 2 lbs stew meat, 1 medium onion, finely chopped and 2 stalks celery finely chopped.  Cook on high stirring to brown the meat and wilt the vegetables.  It isn't necessary to cook the meat through at this point.

I don't think my meat guy doesn't cut stew meat small enough, so take the time to cut it smaller.   

When the meat is mostly brown and the vegetables have softened, add 8 cups of good broth.  Reduce heat.  Cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours.  Sorry, this is not a weeknight soup.

Now, my theory is that I taste with every step.  Not because I'm hungry or worried about seasoning.  Because I want to.  It's a wonder I ever eat at the table and that I'm not overweight.  So take a piece and put it on the tasting plate and allow it to cool then taste it.  
1 T. dill weed, 8 or so crimini mushrooms, quartered, (my favorite kind), 1 cup pearl barley, 8 carrots, pealed and chopped, into the pot. Stir, bring to a simmer and put the lid back on for another 45 minutes.  Do this type of cooking early in the day while you are doing other work like housecleaning or whatever.  When it is finished, set it aside for instant dinner that night.  I'll be freezing most of this for lunches.
And look at what happened later in the day instead of having to cook. 
And This.

And This.

Remember to get your work done early so you can play.

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