Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mushroom Barley Soup






     A Great Savory Soup For A Chilly Day!
     Mushroom Barley Soup is a favorite in restaurants when the weather is cold.  Mushroom Barley Soup has a hearty flavor, even when it is prepared vegetarian style with no beef broth.
     At every restaurant where I was employed as a saucier or sous chef, I was asked to make the soups.  I actually had a great reputation for preparing nice seasonal soups that were perfect for the moment.
     Soup du jour can be a strategic offering in a restaurant.  For example, if there are appetizers or salads that need to be sold, it is best to offer a soup the soup to compete with appetizer or salad sales.  In this case it is best to offer a specialty soup that has very limited appeal.
     Another soup strategy is to offer a heavy rich soup, when light entrées, like seafood, have to be sold.  The idea is to design a soup that facilitates suggestive sales.
     Environmental soup de jour strategies are important too.  For hot weather, offer light soups or chilled soups.  For cold weather, offer rich savory soups, potage or crème soups.
     Dietary soup strategies exist too.  When there is no vegetarian entrées on the special du jour board, offering vegetable soup will please the vegan clientele.  When the special du jour features a cream sauce, offering a clear broth soup pleases customers that are dairy product intolerant.

     As one can see, there are many good soup strategies to think about as a chef.  There are also bad soup de jour strategies.  The worst daily soup strategy is to continually try to serve leftover items like vegetables, roast meat or seafood in a soup.  I have heard regular customers say things like "Lamb Barley Soup for lunch?  Oh yes, they served leg of lamb last night!"  Another common negative comment  goes like, "This looks like something I ate yesterday!"  Comments like these can give a restaurant a well deserved bad reputation.
     Soup can be a crowd pleasing item that extends restaurant profits.  All it takes for success is a professional waitstaff that can make suggestive sales.  Soup rarely sells itself, but there are exceptions to the rule.  If the weather is icy cold, just posting the name of an appealing rich tasting savory soup on the daily special board is enough to send soup sales through the roof.  Today's Mushroom Barley Soup is a good example of a soup that sells itself on a cold day!
 
     Mushroom Barley Soup: 
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups.  (Enough for two medium size servings.)
     Mushroom bouillon paste or mushroom soup base can be found in some grocery stores.  Soaking dried wild mushrooms in water overnight will yield mushroom broth too.  The soaking liquid is usually rich enough to use as mushroom broth.    
     Pearled Barley does get plump after reconstituting, so the standard rule is to add less than what you would initially think is enough.  Adding too much pearled barley will result in a bowl full of barley porridge instead of soup!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of each of these diced vegetables:
     - onion
     - carrot
     - celery
     - leek
     Gently sauté the vegetables till they start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of small chopped portobello mushrooms.
     Sauté till the mushrooms become tender.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour, while constantly stirring, to soak up any excess butter and to make roux.   (About 2 teaspoons to 2 1/2 teaspoons is plenty.)
     Stir till the flour and excess butter combines.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of mushroom broth.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of beef broth or rich vegetable broth.
     Bring the soup to a boil.
     Stir the soup as it heats, so the roux binds with the broth.  The consistency should be very thin at this point.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 cup of pearled barley.
     Gently boil for 1 minute.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 of a bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch each of:
     - marjoram
     - oregano
     - thyme
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Simmer the soup till the pearled barley is tender and the volume of the soup to reduces to about 2 3/4 cups.  The soup will thicken just enough to help keep the ingredients in suspension.
     *Be sure to stir the soup occasionally.  Pearled barley has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the pot as it cooks and it can scorch. 
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.  (Add a splash of broth if the soup is too thick.)
     Step 7:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the mushroom barley soup into a soup bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!
 
     Mushroom Barley Soup has a nice warming effect that spells pure comfort!

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