Beef, Barley and Leek Soup
Split three large leeks down the center and wash well. Slice thinly. It’s a massive amount but will cook down significantly. If you wish for a more onion-y flavored broth, slice a yellow onion also.
Get one pound of good quality sirloin with a little marbling; trim the fat on the edges and cut into 1/2″ chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in batches over medium-high heat, removing to a bowl as they darken. If you happen to have a good beef bone on hand, adding it to the pot for the cooking process will greatly enhance the beef flavor.
When all the meat is browned, add the onion and leek to the pan, along with 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are slightly soft and browned in some spots. Return the beef to the pan, add in about 1/2-3/4 c. of pearled barley (depending on your love of the grain- I used 3/4 c.), 1 1/2 quarts of beef broth and 1/2 c. red wine. This liquid-to-solid ratio results in a pretty thick soup- add more liquid if you want a thinner option. If you’re like me and you keep various cheese rinds on hand in the freezer to flavor soups, toss a few in at this time. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender and barley is cooked through. This will depend on the type of barley used- mine took about an hour but I kept the heat pretty low.
Additions can be added as well; sliced carrots, cubed potatoes, mushrooms…..the list is infinite. Continue cooking the soup until added ingredient is tender. Just before serving, pour in about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, or more red wine. Season with salt and pepper.