Mushrooms were on sale at the grocery the other day and I have a bag of pearled barley that I’ve been waiting to open. It was a toss up between doing soup or a risotto. As today is the Presidential Preference Primary here in Louisiana and I was phone banking for Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, I needed something I could put in the crock pot and just walk away from, so I went with the soup.
This is a very simple recipe. Sure, you can add carrots (2, diced) and celery (2 stalks, diced) and even meat (3 lbs beef short ribs are great). However, my aim was for strong mushroom flavor and an easy preparation and this hits the target dead center. You could also make it entirely vegetarian by using a vegetable stock instead of chicken and olive oil in place of the butter but this is me we are talking about!
Mushroom Barley Soup in the Slow Cooker
3 tablespoons butter (or a combination of butter and olive oil)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 lb mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (mixture of portobello, cremini or button works but go with what you like)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups mushroom broth (I use Better than Bouillon but you can easily make your own)
1 cup pearl barley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt butter in large dutch oven over med-high heat. Add the onions. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms stems and 1/4 t. salt. Cook until they have softened and browned, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
Place the broth, mushrooms, barley, thyme and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Pour in the onion mixture and stir well. Cook over low heat for 4 to 6 hours, until barley is tender. Season with salt and pepper before serving with crusty bread.
Make ahead: the soup keeps for 3 days in the fridge or 1 month in freezer. Re heat over low, adding additional water or broth to adjust consistency.