12 February 2012

Beef & barley stew with mushrooms

Talk about comfort food. Food for cold weather. Fortification against the cold. What about beef stew? With pearl barley (orge perlé in French)? Start with a pound and a half of stew beef (bœuf pour bourguignon). And with winter vegetables — celery root, carrots, turnip, rutabaga, onions — not to mention mushrooms.

Thanks to Elise at Simply Recipes for the idea and a recipe. I really appreciate her frequent e-mails, which are a constant source of good, appetizing recipes and ideas. This time, we happened to have a bag of pearl barley down in the cellar, and we hadn't found or made an opportunity to cook it and eat it. Carrots and mushrooms are staples for us, and all the other vegetables are ones we both enjoy.

Beef and barley stew with winter vegetables and mushrooms

I took Elise's recipe and adapted it by adding the turnip and rutabaga. I also decided to marinate the beef before cooking it to tenderize and flavor the meat a little, since it was stew beef rather than chuck. Onions, garlic, bay leaf, dried oregano, and white wine went into the marinade. I left it overnight in the refrigerator. Then early in the morning, I took the chunks of stew beef out of the liquid, patted them dry, and sauteed them in a big pot with bacon fat that I'd saved in the fridge.

We get such good mushrooms here in the Loire Valley.

In went the onions to brown a little, and then the marinade and some broth from the freezer. I let the meat cook for three hours on low heat before adding the barley, which takes another 45 to 60 minutes to cook. Meanwhile, I cooked the vegetables separately in a light broth, starting with the carrots, and continuing with the rutabaga, turnip, and celery root, all cut into ¾-inch chunks. And I sauteed the mushrooms in butter.

Winter vegetables cooked separately in broth,
ready to go into the meat stew

When the stew, including the barley, was pretty much ready, I added the cooked vegetables and mushrooms to the pot, along with the broth the vegetables had cooked in. All the flavor went into the stew, in other words. It was done. The beef was starting to fall apart, after four hours of cooking. The broth was rich, and everything else was cooked. It was a great lunch, and the leftovers will be just as good, if not better, in a day or two.


  1. Simon loves this sort of thing - I'd better put it on my to do list. That's assuming I can get to the supermarket for some beef next week after it rains and the road is covered in black ice!

    Where did you get the pearl barley? We haven't discovered a source in France.

  2. Susan, we might have bought it in an Asian supermarket, either in Blois or Paris. I don't remember. Just asked W. — he says Blois, so I bet the Asian market in Tours has it.

  3. Ken, those winter veg look good enough to serve up by themselves, just dressed with salt, pepper and a little walnut oil.

  4. If I had been serving them separately, I probably would have roasted them in the oven. In fact, that would have been a good way to cook them before putting them in the stew, wouldn't it have been?

  5. Your lunch reminds me of one we had at a restaurant in Van Dorn, Texas. Their beef and barley was absolutely divine. Several years later, we made a point to stop at the same restaurant in hope to enjoy that same beef and barley soup. Well, as it happens most often, the restaurant was a disappointment. I don’t recall if there was any beef and barley at all, but, either because the restaurant changed hands or the cook passed away, or any other reason, the food was barely [barley?] edible.

  6. Ken, that sounds sooooo good. I've been hoping you'd blog about it since Walt raved about it on FB yesterday. Yuummm!

  7. Off-topic, though when is food ever off-topic on your two blogs? Ken and Walt, the Relais Saint-Louis in Belleme, where you ate this summer, was awarded Bib Gourmand status by Michelin for 2012.

    Was your meal there better than you can get at home? Probably not. Maybe I should I put your names up for Bib Gourmand status.


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