Beef and Barley soup

A common theme throughout my posts is the change of the seasons and how we, as cooks and chefs, react and embrace it.  In New England, we get excited by the change of the seasons.  Right now, at this very moment, apples are being picked, pumpkins are growing, cider is being sold by the road and we are looking forward to fall food.  Of course in LA, the seasons aren’t felt in the same way (if at all), but we still get excited.

Fall and winter food is by nature a little heavier and more reliant on root vegetables, squashes, darker meats and longer cooking times.  Crock pots were practically invented with winter in mind.   I love the long cook process.  We can coax so many deep layers of flavors out of food through a long, slow and step – by – step process.

This recipe, one of my favorite to make in winter, is of course multi-step and somewhat involved.  It requires a good deal of work in the beginning, and once it’s set to cook, can go for hours with minimal supervision.  Not only does this recipe produce an INCREDIBLE soup, it teaches a lot about technique and the importance of doing things in steps, paying close attention to each piece.  Each step can be viewed as a separate recipe in a way.

In principal, the soup is simple, and you can dumb it down however much you want (throw everything in a crock pot with water and let it go).  My version, as most of my recipes, are not abridged and will, in my opinion, yield excellent restaurant quality results.

Beef and Barley Soup
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 5 hours
Yield: 1 gallon


1 large yellow onion, med dine
2 ribs celery, med dice
6 carrots, cut in oblique or med dice
2 parsnip, med dice
3 tbsp tomato paste
10 sprigs thyme, fine chop
2 sprigs rosemary, fine chop
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 750ml bottle dry red wine
prepared beef or chicken stock (homemade is infinitely better)
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 lb baby red potatoes, well scrubbed, cut in quarters
3 lb beef short ribs, excess fat removed
2 lb oxtail
2 lb beef or veal marrow bones
vegetable oil
kosher salt
crack black pepper


Heat an oven to 450.  Lightly coat the short ribs, oxtails and marrow bones with oil, salt and pepper and roast until deeply roasted and caramelized.  Drain well.

In a med-large stock pot, begin caramelizing the vegetables in a little bit of oil.  Time your time during this step, it may take half an hour.  Continuously turn the heat down as the vegetables darker.  You want them to be caramelized completely through, not just on the outside.  Season with salt and pepper.  They will smell sweet when ready.  Add the garlic, herbs and tomato paste and cook, stirring continuously until everything is coated in tomato paste (pince).  Add red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Turn heat to high and reduce by half.  Add the beef back to the pot and cover with stock.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Slowly simmer for about 4 hours, until the beef short ribs are falling off the bone tender.  Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender.  While the soup is cooking, cook the barley separately.  When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove all usable meat from the short ribs and oxtails (discard fat and connective tissue).  Roughly shred the meat and add back to the soup.  Skim the top of the soup with a ladle to remove excess fat.  Add the cooked barley to the soup.  Check seasoning.


This soup is a meal in itself.  I like to garnish with chopped parsley and maybe some fresh crusty bread.


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