Beef Mushroom Soup

This is one of my best original concoctions to date, full stop.  Truly delicious.  We are in a strange and somewhat insulting weather pattern down here on the Gulf, with lows in the 40’s at night, but also hurricanes … kinda like having wrinkles and acne at the same time in life … just totally unfair.  So beautiful, brisk fall sailing, but you might have to take all the sails off when you put her away, in case 70-knot winds kick up later in the week.  A hearty, warming, rich soup is the answer, quick enough to prepare and eat between storm-proofing chores, but warms up your cold hands as you try to open shackles, tighten turnbuckles, and otherwise batten down hatches.

Beef Mushroom Soup

1 pound beef short ribs
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms
1-1/2 ounces dried mushrooms
2 shallots
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and ground pepper
4 cups chicken or beef broth
1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms and slice them and the shallots thickly.  Arrange in the bottom of a roasting pan and drizzle with the olive oil, then toss to coat.  Lay the beef ribs on top of the vegetables and hit the whole pan with salt and pepper.  Put in the preheated oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees.

Soak the dried mushrooms in 4 cups of boiling water until softened, about 20 minutes.  I used a dried soup blend from a company called “Melissa’s” that had porcini, oyster and paddystraw, but almost any dried mushroom will do, adding depth and variety of flavor to the soup.

When softened, lift out of the water with a slotted spoon and drain, pressing a bit with paper towels.  Top the mushroom water up to 4 cups and reheat as necessary.

This way you can use the mushroom water to make your bouillon — as regular readers know, we are devotees of Better Than Bouillon, and here I’ve just stirred the chicken concentrate into the mushroom broth, giving extra depth of mushroom flavor to the final soup.  If you’re using a prepared broth, you can just dump the mushroom water, but this really did give a nice richness to things.

Chop the rehydrated mushrooms a bit — you’re shooting to make sure there’s a little of the exotics in each bite of soup, so turn this pile into about 3-times as many pieces.

After about an hour, the beef should register about 200 degrees on a meat thermometer and be falling off the bone.  Here it’s obviously going back in for another 20 minutes or so.  The mushrooms and shallots will have collapsed and caramelized a bit.  When done, pull the meat off the bones with a fork and pull into bite-size pieces.

Put the broth, rehydrated mushrooms, roasted vegetables and beef in a soup pot and bring slowly to a low boil.

Quick barley is a marvelous thing to have around for soup season — throw it into any brothy soup to quickly add some heft.  If you can’t find it, use regular barley … but you will need to boil it a lot longer, closer to an hour.  In that case, I would put the barley and broth in the pot alone, boil for about 45 minutes, then add the beef and vegetables for the last 15 minutes, so as not to overcook.  Either way, give the whole shi-bang 15 minutes simmer together, until the barley is chewy and cooked through.

Serve in deep, manageable bowls, sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley for bite.  Fend off Spaniel swab by giving him a rib bone if necessary.

Enjoy the autumn colors on the way back up the bayou to the slip, and may Hurricane Eta fizzle out in the Gulf!

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