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.
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.
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.
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.