I woke up on Sunday morning in full on finals mode, thinking about what I needed to accomplish to call it a successful day. I knew one thing on that agenda would be some comfort food: a) because studying makes you hungry and b) because I haven’t cooked much of interest in awhile, and wanted to spend some time in the kitchen as an incentive/reward for finishing half of each of my final papers.
This beef and barley stew was perfect for both its goal and the chilly, dreary weather of the day. It was super easy, but the depth of flavor was amazing. The richness of the red wine combines perfectly with the beef and contrasts with the sweetness of the carrots and onions. The pearled barley adds a heart healthy dose of whole grains, and this is absolutely chock full of vegetables – nothing to feel guilty about, here. There is a great combination of textures here, too – slightly toothsome barley, tender beef, carrots with just a bit of bite left in them, soft potatoes, juicy mushrooms, and creamy stock ensconcing the whole thing. Served with a crusty bread for sopping and dunking, this is a simple but immensely flavorful stew. If possible, the leftovers are even better. The recipe below makes about six servings.
Beef and Barley Stew
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chuck roast or other stewing beef, cut into 2″ pieces
1 tbs. butter
1/3 cup dry vermouth
Salt and pepper
2 small yellow onions, cut into 1″ chunks
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cabernet sauvignon or other red wine
3 cups vegetable or beef broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ slices
3 stalks celery cut into 1″ slices
2-3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups crimini mushrooms, rinsed
1 cup pearled barley
Over medium-high heat, add butter to a Dutch oven or large heavy pot with tight fitting lid. Add beef, working in batches if necessary, and brown about 2-3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper as the beef is browning. When nearly browned all the way through, raise heat to high for about a minute and then deglaze the pot with vermouth. Cook until vermouth is nearly reduced, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onions and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until softened and just beginning to turn a light golden color.
Reduce heat to medium low. Add the flour and cook, stirring almost continuously, for about two minutes.
Add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
Add red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits stuck to the bottom. Simmer the wine over medium low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add broth, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and the beef. Bring back to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook on very low heat for about half an hour.
Add barley and vegetables after half an hour. Cover and simmer another hour or until meat and vegetables are tender. Taste for seasonings, then recover, turn off heat, and let sit 5-10 minutes.
Serve with crusty bread.