Do you have 5½ hours to spend making a soup? Neither did I when I failed to thoroughly review a recipe before making this one (hint hint: there’s a lesson to be learned here). Don’t worry though- I’m not bitter at the many hours spent watching over this soup or that I ended up eating Chipotle the night I thought I was eating soup for dinner. In truth, it turned out to be well worth it. Bourbon, Barley, & Onion Beef Soup tastes a lot like the base of a fancy French Onion soup, but with hearty beef undertones and a hint of bourbon. Plus, the addition of barley is healthy and leaves you feeling satiated with just a bowl of soup for dinner. Grate a little Gruyère cheese on top of a steaming hot bowl and dinner is served. Stock Ingredients:
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
- 4 celery stalks, cut into thick slices
- 4 shallots, sliced
- 5 small garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ c. parsley
- 2 c. red wine
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 4 c. water
- 3-4 lbs. center cut beef shanks
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 large red onions, sliced
- 16 oz. frozen pearl onions, thawed
- 1/3 c. bourbon (I used Evan Williams Black Label Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey)
- 2 c. chicken broth
- ½ c. barley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Gruyère cheese for garnish
Stock Time: 3-3½ hours Note: You can make this a day or two in advance In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and shallots and stir occasionally until nicely browned (about 8-10 minutes). Add in the garlic and brown for 1 minute. Pour in the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release any tasty browned bits into the stock. Heat until the wine reduces by half (about 5 minutes). Add the parsley, thyme, and water. Add the beef shanks and try to submerge them as much as possible. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to keep the stock at a simmer, and cover. Cook until meat for approximately 3-3½ hours until the meat easily shreds with a fork. Remove the meat from the pot. Remove as much meat as possible from the bones and set aside. Discard the bones. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Skim off the fat. Measure out four cups of stock. Set aside or refrigerate until it’s time to make the soup.
Helpful Hint to Skim Fat without Fancy Equipment: if you have time, especially if preparing the stock in advance, pour the stock into a measuring cup until the stock reaches the “4 cup” mark and all fat is above the line. Refrigerate the stock and fat together. When you’re ready to make the soup, remove your measuring cup, remove the hardened disc of fat from the top of the measuring cup, and proceed with the recipe.
Soup Time: 1½ – 2 hours Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cook the red onions for 45-60 minutes until very soft and browned – stir occasionally and add water by the tablespoon if the onions get dry. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the bourbon and pearl onions. Return to heat. Scrape the bottom of the browned bits until the bourbon evaporates (about 4 minutes). Add the chicken broth, beef shank stock, and barley. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to keep the soup at a simmer, cover and cook until the barley is tender (about 45-60 minutes). Add the reserved meat to the soup at the very end. Sprinkle each bowl with grated Gruyère cheese, and serve.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit’s “Oxtail Soup with Onions and Barley” from March 2013.