Monday, February 21

New Ingredients Can Be Scary

I love trying new recipes and this is a new one I tried today called Beef, Barley, and Dried Mushroom Stew. I was browsing through my favorite food recipe site,, and it caught my eye because:

1. It sounds like a something my husband would love (I don’t make a lot of beef meals, especially chunky ones as I’m more of a chicken fan) 

2. It seems like a soup you might very well find at Panera

3. It has chipotle chiles in adobo sauce which I’ve recently come to love 

Most of the time I select what I make based on reading others reviews.  I guess it’s the same as when I buy products on Amazon.  Reading someone else’s experiences can be very useful in making your decision.  For recipes it’s particularly helpful as sometimes the reviewers list what didn’t come out quite so right or how they altered the recipe to suit their needs.   

There couldn’t have been a better time to try this recipe than today as Michigan had one of their largest snowfalls this winter (about 10 inches).  My husband went snowboarding so I knew he’d definitely have a good appetite worked up by the time he got home.   He’ll be the perfect judge on whether this soup makes it into our regulars cookbook.  

I have to admit I’ve never used dried mushrooms, beef base, or barley. I’ve heard of all these ingredients except beef base.  I thought maybe it’s a beef bouillon cube, but when I looked it up online I found out that it’s not the same. Beef base is actually beef stock that’s been turned into a powder or paste.  This is located down the same aisle as the bouillon cubes and stocks at the grocery store.  There weren’t many brands to choose from so I decided to try this Amish brand. 

The recipe itself didn’t seem that hard but as I was prepping I had to think about how the instructions were worded.  For instance… ‘and rough cut reserve the strained liquid’.  I had no idea what this meant so I looked up ‘rough cut reserve’ online only to find nothing.  Then I re-read it a few more times and laughed.  I was dissecting the steps too much.  Rough cut the mushrooms AND reserve the strained liquid, got it!  I've since modified the original recipe instructions so that they're easier to follow (listed below). 

I have to say in making this recipe all was going smoothly until I opened the beef base.  Wow, this ingredient was not what I was expecting at all.  I let out a little gasp as I opened the jar.  I don’t know why but I thought the brand I bought was a powder.  No sirree, it was a paste.  The color was a very dark brown, in paste form, and literally looked like babies poop.  Here’s a picture so you can see for yourself.  Don’t let this stop you from buying it though.  At least now you’re prepared for what you’ll see when you open it!  From what I read, the base is supposed to have a richer flavor than bouillon cubes.  Don’t worry, the base will last for a while as it can be refrigerated for months after it’s opened.

In the end the stew came out like it was supposed to however there’s one change I would make and that’s to buy better quality beef.  I bought pre-cut beef stew meat and I think it was a little fattier than if I were to buy the beef and cut it myself.  My husband thought the meal was good, but felt the same about the beef.  I asked him to rate it out of 5 stars and he gave it a 3.  Before he knew he would have to rate it, as he was eating he laughed and said “It’s fucking hot (spicy)!” I kinda laughed because I didn’t think it was that spicy, but I did add a little more chipotle than what was called for since I like love chipotle peppers.  He thought maybe it felt extra spicy since his lips were wind burnt from snowboarding.

Beef, Barley, and Dried Mushroom Stew
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 1 3/4 hrs

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried funghi porcini, stems discarded
  • 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushroom, stems discarded
  • 1 lb beef, cubed
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, diced (more can be added for extra spiciness)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon beef base
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup barley
    1. Put mushrooms in bowl and cover with hot water.  Set aside.
    2. In a large pot heat oil and saute onions, garlic, celery and carrots until slightly wilted.
    3. Season beef cubes generously with salt and pepper.  Add to onion mixture and cook until just browned.
    4. Reserve some of the water while straining the mushrooms.   You can use as much as you'd like for the 6 cups of water requested above.  I reserved about 1 cup mushroom water and used it in addition to 5 cups of regular water (6 total cups).  After mushrooms are strained, roughly chop the mushrooms. 
    5. Add ground meat, chipotle pepper, and chopped mushrooms to the pot and brown.
    6. In a large bowl combine 6 cups of water (use as much mushroom water as you'd like along with regular water; total 6 cups), Worcestershire sauce, beef base, and tomato paste.   Stir ingredients.  After ingredients are well mixed add to the pot along with the oregano and bay leaves.
    7. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
    8. Add barley and simmer an hour.
    9. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

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