Beef Barley Soup

January 6, 2015 - Jazz up Lunch, Weekend Cooking
Beef Barley Soup

This is one of two recipes I always make with leftover prime rib beef and bones.  Be aware that this recipe is an all day affair.  It isn’t hard, it doesn’t require any special skills, but, you have to be home all day to watch and occasionally stir.  Fun for a snowy day, when you’re stuck in the house anyway!

This past weekend there were signs all over the neighborhood that the holidays have passed, but the snowy weather is just started (and by the way, prime rib goes on sale due to the passing holidays) so it was a perfect time for prime rib dinner and leftover soup to cheer us all up out of our post-holiday funk.  Freeze some for future lunches!

Sing of the times, post holiday gloom

Sign of the times, post holiday gloom


Leftover prime rib bones*

2 or 3 marrow bones

6 large carrots

2 large onions

6 celery stalks

Bundle of herbs (fresh thyme and parsley work well)

1, 2, 3 or 4 Parmesan reggiano rinds*

whatever gravy you have leftover

1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes (optional, helps flavor and thicken the soup)

1-2 cups of beef cut into bite sized pieces**

2-3 cups of cooked barely

Freshly crushed salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Fill your stockpot about 3/4 the way to the top with water.  Put the bones from the cooked prime rib into the water with 1 coarsely chopped carrot, onion and celery.  Put the fresh herbs either into a cheese cloth pouch or just tie the stems together with some kitchen twine…or just throw it in.  Add in your cheese rinds.  Put the burner on high until you get it to start boiling.

While the stock is starting to warm, put the bones into an olive oil coated roasting pan and bake for 1 hour, turning them over once at the 30 minute mark.

Once the stock pot is boiling, use a gravy ladle or soup ladle to skim off the top layer of scum that may appear.  Put the burner down to low heat, add in the gravy now if using and place the lid on the pot.  Stir every 15 minutes or so, and skim again if needed.

Once the bones are finished warming in the oven, add them to the stock and stir them into the mix.  From this point you need to set a timer for 4 hours, or even 5 hours if you have it, to let the stock become as flavorful as possible.

While the stock is simmering, finely chop the remainder of the carrots, onions and celery for the soup.  I place a damp paper towel over the chopped veggies and keep them in the fridge until the broth is completed.  You can also make the barley while the stock is finishing up, just follow the instructions on the bag, you will just need to measure the right amount of water and barley then simmer until the water is absorbed.  My eldest son noticed that cooking barley smells a lot like oatmeal, that is when I realized I hadn’t served him barley before.  It is so important to expose kids to variety, that is why I love trying new combinations for this blog and to expand the kid’s food horizons.  I think the barley worked out so well, it added a hearty element to the soup unlike what I had added in the past, but if you would rather you can add orzo pasta, egg noodles, rice or even very small chunks of potatoes.  I would just advise adding pasta, barley or rice once it has been cooked almost all the way first.

IMG_9255Once the stock is cooked, grab another big stock pot and any kind of strainer and strain out the big chunks (my hubby helps with this part, I am way too much of a klutz to be trusted with such a large quantity of boiling liquid).  Rinse out your original pot and return the strained broth into the clean pot and strain it a second time to remove the final bits of chunky stuff.  If you have a ton of stock (I use an extra large pot so always have a lot) then this is the time to store a few quarts in a freezer proof container or pour some into ice cube trays which can later be put into a zip top bag.  You can use the stock for soup, stews or gravies all winter long.  (Label with masking tape what you are storing and the date).

Now is the easy part, start by whisking in the mashed potatoes if using until well incorporated.  Then add in the chopped vegetables to the stock and boil for 10-15 minutes on medium high heat to soften them.  Add in the meat and the barley and simmer for another 15 minutes, then taste for seasoning.

You may need to add up to 1 tbsp of salt depending on how much gravy you used, how many cheese rinds were originally added, if you added mash potatoes or not and how well seasoned they were as well – way too many variables here for me to advise, tasting is your best bet.

My eldest son has such a refined pallet I always ask him to judge the saltiness or need for salt and he is dead on every time!  If I asked my husband he would advise me to dump in loads too much salt because he likes things salty….but hey, he really helps me out pouring that huge pot of liquid so I should leave him alone!  Think of who in your family has a strong sense for seasoning and recruit them to help you if you are not sure, and lean towards under seasoning since you can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

Serve warm with some rye toast or sour dough bread smeared with butter.  For added richness, put a dollop of sour cream on the top of each person’s bowl of soup and stir it in.

*Trick:  If you are having a roast dinner and don’t want to make the soup right away, maybe it is a lovely day and you don’t want to be stuck in stirring the stock, just cover the bones with foil and stick them in the freezer with those cheese rinds and make the soup another day.  I have been known to use the meat and gravy for a casserole or hot open faced sandwiches and freeze the bones for another day.  My mom cuts down on the cooking time by skipping the marrow bones that have to be heated for an hour and than simmered for another 4-5.  She uses the prime rib bone, and adds in a can of Progresso French Onion Soup for added flavor, and probably only simmers her stock for a couple of hours.

**Tip:  Whenever I finish a wedge of Parmesano reggianno I wrap the rind in clear wrap or aluminum foil and stick it in the freezer for future pots of beef soup.  You aren’t supposed to eat the rind raw, but if it is boiled in soup it will add an incredible rich, nutty and cheesy flavor to the soup. 

***Tip:  After we eat our dinner, I cut the beef into small chunks and stick it in the fridge or freezer for either soup, casseroles or hot open sandwiches, you never want to re-heat beef dry, it should always be warmed in gravy, used in soup or thrown into a moist casserole to get warmed through.

Secret:  Why do I always have leftovers when I make prime rib?  Most of my family doesn’t appreciate a roast dinner as much as I do, so there is always leftover meat (and of course I purchase a 4-5 pound roast to begin with so I know I can make a few meals out of it).  My favorite memories from living in England during college were eating the Sunday roast dinners in the pub, it will always bring me back to those days, but sadly there are a few in my family who just don’t have the same love for roast dinner as I do!




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