This is one of those recipes that not only tastes good, but provides deep comfort when you need it most--and from very little effort. If you enjoy chicken noodle soup, you're going to love chicken and barley soup even more.
Who knew that barley tasted so good?
i had all but forgotten all about barley
until last month when a stomach bug bit me and all i could eat was simple, chicken soup.
Barley has barely more flavor than your basic noodles
but the subtle difference is nice.
And not nearly so messy since there is never a need to slurp.
The cooking method is a bit different
It's one i learned from two of my favorite food writers:
Arthur Schwartz and Laurie Colwin
so i trust it and have had great success with it.
Given that it takes a little time--1-3 hours to cook the chicken
(depending on the method you choose)
you may want to make it on the weekend.
Once you've tasted it, you'll want to make a double batch in the future
so that you can put some in the freezer
to pull out at a moment's notice.
Buy a large chicken, 4-pounds if you can.
Here are specific instructions from Mr. Schwartz (which may make you nervous--but not to worry, there is an alternative): "Place it in a large pot that will hold it snugly, not touching the sides of the pot but filling it pretty well. Add enough cold tap water to cover by about 1 inch. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. (Okay, less if you are afraid of that much salt.) Add 1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns. Cover the pot. Put it over high heat. Bring it to a boil. As soon as the steam starts coming out from under the lid, turn off the heat. Off heat, let the pot sit for 3 hours. Do not open the cover. Do not peek."
Members of my family who are food professionals assure me that this is perfectly safe--as long as you bring it to a boil at the start and the chicken is fresh and clean.
HOWEVER, if it makes you too nervous to use this method
simply let it simmer on VERY low heat until just cooked--check after one hour.
When the chicken is done
remove from the pot and let cool.
In the mean time, add a couple of carrots, a large rib of celery and a medium onion, all cut into 1/2-inch dice and 1/2 cup barley to the broth.
Bring back to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook until veggies and barley are tender.
And here's a very helpful hint for using green herbs in souop:
don't add them to the pot in the beginning
add them when you reheat the soup.
The herbs (except for bay leaves)
will turn grey and unappealing in flavor, too
if they cook with the chicken and other vegetables the whole time.
Fresh herbs work best when added to the soup at the very end.
When cool enough to handle, remove the meat and cut into bite-size chunks.
Add to the hot soup, stir in any herbs (I usually add parsley) and serve.
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