From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...It was bone-chilling cold today and the sun chose to hibernate rather than to fight back the clouds. It was not a day to inspire greatness. I thought I'd write some and finish packing away the last of the Christmas ornaments. As it worked out, I did neither, and I was left staring at a metaphoric empty page and looking at fire-red poinsettias that seemed glaringly bright and tasteless now that the holiday was over. While I was at it, I chucked my dinner plans and came very close to opening a can of soup for supper. I caught myself in the nick of time, though I couldn't shake the thought of soup by the fire on such a bone-chilling day. After checking what I had on hand, I decided to play with a recipe for Chicken and Barley soup that I had originally seen on the Panera website. You can see their version of the soup, which is made in a slow cooker, here. I had to do some ingredient substitution, so while I ran with their idea, I pulled out my stockpot and made the soup the old-fashioned way. I used what my butcher calls "scrap chicken" for my soup. While inelegant, I've found it to be great for making chicken soup or broth. The scraps are packed in 2-1/2 to 3 pound packages that both contain chicken trimmings and fat. I render the fat, a trick learned in my childhood, and use it to saute the barley, as well as the chicken and vegetables, that make up the base of the soup. Once everything has been sauteed, I add the wine and stock and let the pot simmer for about an hour, or until the barley is tender. I use one pan from start to finish and I must admit I was really pleased with the depth of flavor the soup developed in such a short period of time. If you can't find packaged chicken scraps, use the same weight of boneless chicken thighs and saute them in a combination of oil and butter. I really think you'll like this soup. Here is how it's made.
Chicken Barley Soup...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Panera
1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or 2-1/2 pounds of chicken scraps
1 teaspoon salt, divided use
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper,divided use
1 tablespoon canola oil + 1 tablespoon butter or 2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup dry sherry
9 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional: 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1) Season chicken with half of salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter or chicken fat in a stockpot set over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sear it until it is lightly brown all over. Transfer meat to a plate. Add barley to pan, toss to cover with drippings. Remove to same plate as chicken.
2) Add onion, carrots, and celery to skillet, season with remaining salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until soft, 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms begin to release their liquid, about 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer over high heat until liquid almost evaporates, about 5 minutes.
3) Return chicken and barley to stockpot. Stir in broth and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 1 hour or until barley is tender.
4) Remove chicken from pot and shred. Return to pot along with lemon and dill, if using. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 6 servings.
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