Chicken, Mushroom, Barley-Vegetable Soup

In Recipies on September 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

The “other” season has arrived in Iowa (“America’s Ukraine”)…the cold and damp season.  We just emerged from the other season…”hot and humid”.  Soon the snow will be flying.

This can only mean one thing.

It is time to start making big batches of soups.

As we generally shun air conditioning, I do not prepare soups during Iowa’s “hot and humid” season.  If we want soup, I bring up a frozen container that was prepared during the cold and damp season, when we make use of residual “free” heat generated in the preparation of the gallons of soups destined for freezing.

Today’s soup will be: “Chicken, Mushroom, and Barley-Vegetable”.

It begins with one (or two) of the chicken carcasses I bagged and froze over the summer.  If we were to suddenly die (G-d forbid!), people would puzzle for months over why there were 5-10 frozen chicken carcasses in the freezer.

We save them for soup-making weather!

Okay!  Here we go…

1 chicken carcass (two if your family pretty well picks them over)

1 gallon of water

Dump the water into a 3-gallon stockpot and dump the chicken into the water.  Remember about how high the water level comes in the pot (important!).  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low-medium.  Cover, and cook, for three hours or until any remaining meat falls off of the bones and the cartilage is soft.  Allow the broth to cool enough to be safely handled and then remove the large bones with a big, slotted spoon.  Do the same with the meaty pieces, picking the wonderfully sweet meat off of their bones.  Pour the remaining broth through a strainer and remove any small bone fragments.  Return the broth to the stockpot.  If the broth looks too greasy, spoon off some of the floating fat before proceeding…reserving the fat in the fridge for later.

That was easy!  No, we are not done…

We have to add more “stuff”.

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 large shallots, minced

3 carrots, diced

1 C frozen peas

1 C frozen corn

½ C frozen limas

2 C (chopped) dried wild mushrooms (or 1 lb coarsely chopped white fresh)

1 C barley

2 TBS olive oil (optional)

2 TBS brandy or cognac

1-3 TBS lemon juice

1-2 tsp dried thyme

1-2 tsp dried tarragon

1-2 tsp dried marjoram

½-1 tsp dried oregano

½-1 tsp dried, rubbed sage

cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Do you remember the approximate water level you started with?  Add in enough cold water to bring the soup volume back to one gallon.

This is not a soup where we dump everything in the pot at one time.  We do not want the veggies to get mushy and it is a sound practice to only add about ½ of the herbs at the beginning of cooking.  Herb flavors come from volatile oils in them.  If you add herbs (or spices) too early, their oils cook off and your dish has only a shadow memory of their wonderful flavors.  Save ½ of the herbs to add in the last 15 minutes of cooking.  Ditto, for the brandy and lemon juice.

Add the onion, garlic, and shallots to the broth.  Cover and cook over medium heat for about an hour, or until the onions are very soft.  Add the vegetables and barley, cover, and cook for another 30 minutes or until the barley is just softened.  NOW, add the remaining herbs, brandy, lemon juice and cayenne.  TASTE!  Add salt and pepper and…TASTE!  Now, LOOK!  Is there a bit of sheen on top of the broth?  There should be a bit of fat floating on the soup.  If not, you can either add back some of the fat you spooned off earlier, or you can add healthier olive oil instead.  Stir the soup again and TASTE.  If the soup seems a bit “flat”, do not add salt!  Add another tablespoon of lemon juice and TASTE.  You do not want a salty soup.  You want a soup with “bright” flavors.  Remember, “Too many cooks add salt when it is not needed and end up with a good, but salty soup!”  Twist in a generous amount of black pepper and add in a bit more cayenne if you like.

Serve with hot, crusty bread and a crisp wine.

Soup’s on!


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