After a last-gasp furnace-blast of weather from summer, finally the season succumbed and Fall is upon us. To celebrate this momentous event, I decided to make my trusty chicken and barley soup. The recipe for this originally comes from The Daily Soup Cookbook, and is pretty straightforward; it’s one of my staples, a rare meal I can make without the recipe open in front of me, and it’s crazy good.
I start with a giant heap of mirepoix elements, onions, celery and carrots. I chop the celery and carrots pretty coarsely, and since I think carrots are nature’s candy, I put way more of them in than the original recipe asks for. For this pot of soup I used an entire pound of them. So then I sweat the veggies out in a huge pot, seasoned liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and then I remove them from the pot and drop in my boneless, skinless chicken breast, which has been cut into little pieces. Since I love making enough soup for leftovers, I used almost 2 1/4 pounds of chicken. Once the chicken is browned up nicely, I add the veggies back to the pot and 8-10 cups of chicken stock (I make my own stock, but low-sodium chicken broth works fine here too). Once it comes to a boil, I dump in boatloads of barley. Seriously, tons of it. I don’t measure, but it’s probably about 2 or 3 cups of it, since I like this to be more a porridge than a soup. When I’m using homemade stock, this generally needs some serious seasoning at this point, so I give it a hearty dose of more black pepper and either kosher salt, or, if I’m feeling fancy, sea salt to taste. I let it come back to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to a nice, low simmer and let it go at it for about an hour, stirring from time to time, until the barley is cooked through. Then I top the pot off with a healthy splash of vermouth and some chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, make sure it’s all up to temperature again, and then I gorge myself.
For this pot of soup, I decided I wanted to go the extra step and make some buttermilk biscuits to go with it. I love buttermilk biscuits, and I often forget how quick and easy they are to make; five extra minutes of work wins me major brownie points with Boomer and Pookie!
So, plated up, this was the most comfy comfort food on earth: butter-slathered biscuits, hot out of the oven, and a big bowl of barley, chicken, carrots and celery and a little broth. (My favorite thing about this soup is that the leftovers are essentially a barley risotto — the barley soaks up all the broth overnight, so it’s a neat, easy thing to take to work for lunch.)