SOUP. The very word makes me feel warm and cozy all over.
When cold, blustery January days keep me curled up by the fire, I invariably crave a pot of soup simmering on the stove.
I’m not talking open-a-can, add water and heat, but rather the kind our grandmothers made, starting with aromatic ingredients like onions, celery, carrots, and garlic.
Whether it’s vegetarian, meaty, creamy, thick, chunky, or features a clear, delicate broth, a steaming pot of homemade soup feels like an elixir that makes everything better.
During the years our boys were growing up, whenever I made soup, they had a habit of casually dropping by the kitchen to sniff the air, peek under the lid, and smile in anticipation because the intoxicating aromas were irresistible.
Grandmother probably never heard the term aromatherapy, but that’s exactly what making soup provides.
One of my favorite soup memories stretches back to my first two years of marriage. A tiny French restaurant in the River Oaks section of Houston was a favorite destination whenever a girlfriend and I could get away for a quiet lunch.
It served a French onion soup with a broth so rich, it could only have developed after many hours of slow simmering. Thick with onions and garnished with a slice of baguette under a canopy of melted cheese that clung to my spoon and chin, those crocks of onion soup have become a cherished food memory.
The best homemade soups need time for flavors to develop, which is ideal when it’s too cold to spend time outdoors.
For my Beef Barley Soup – one of the tasty recipes in my latest book Celebrating Home – I chop all the ingredients early in the day, brown the meat and bones in a large pot, stir in the aromatics, beef broth, and water, and let the magic begin.
After two to three hours of simmering and occasional stirring, the broth becomes thick and rich with meaty flavor, and the cubes of chuck roast become fork-tender.
It’s the perfect remedy for chilled fingers and toes.
Visit christyrost.com for more recipes and entertaining tips from public television chef Christy Rost, a lifestyle authority and author of three cookbooks, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.
Beef Barley Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ pound beef soup bones
3 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cups sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1 ½ cups carrots, rinsed, peeled and chopped
1 ½ cups celery, rinsed and chopped
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
5 cups beef stock or broth
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh celery leaves
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup barley
Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Brown the bones in the oil until they are well seared. Transfer the bones to a large bowl and add one-third of the meat to the pot. Cook the meat without stirring until the bottom of the meat is brown, then turn it over and brown the other side. Transfer the meat to the bowl with the bone, add the remaining oil to the pot if needed, and continue browning the remaining meat in small batches, transferring it to the bowl as it browns.
Add onion, carrots, and celery to the pot, and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently until they caramelize and begin to soften. Add garlic, stir, and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the beef stock and water, return the meat and bone to the pot, and add the bay leaf and celery leaves. Cover and bring the mixture to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and a rich, dark broth has formed.
Stir in barley, season the soup with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the barley is plump and tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the bones, bay leaf, and celery leaves, and serve.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings