Recipe: French onion, beef, and barley soup


What a hell of a week it’s been. My husband and I both work from home so Twitter is our virtual water cooler and eek. The weather turned truly into autumn so we’ve been running our furnace overnight and feeling a little surprised every time we go outside and it’s cold. And the guys finally showed up to install a septic line out to the workshop, so everything is Dug. Up. Let me tell you, if you want to gain a visceral appreciation of what mechanized labor has done for mankind, first dig a ditch by hand, then have some guys come in with an excavator. Oh, the tears for my aching back.

But I digress: this soup. Whipped up out of what I had on hand, like all the best things are. Savory and warming and sent a rippling wave of endorphins down my spine on a cold, wet, dark evening full of worries for our septic system and our democracy.

– 1 T cooking oil
– 4 cups roughly chopped white onion
– 4 cups beef broth
– 1 cup pearled barley
– splash of brandy
– pinch of thyme
– salt and pepper to taste
– optional: thin strips of beef, either a steak you’ve stir-fried yourself, or leftover pot roast, or (what I used) Trader Joe’s Braised Beef Roast, which comes ready-sliced

Rough chop the onions and put the oil in your soup pot. Brown the onions. On my stove any temperature that isn’t full-blast will brown them without burning, but YMMV so keep an eye on them. When they’re as brown as you have patience for, add the broth and barley, stir, turn temp to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for half an hour.

When you come back the barley should be cooked. Test to be sure and cook longer if necessary. Add brandy, spices, and beef and let simmer another five minutes, then eat, gratefully and with a clear conscience because this is good protein AND fiber and your hungry soul needs it. Serves 2 adults with big problems or 4 with small ones.

Would be excellent with cheese toasts.


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