Beef Barley Stew
•3 lb. meaty beef or veal shanks
•3 large yellow onions, chopped
•6 carrots, peeled and chopped
•4 celery stalks, chopped
•1 cup tomato puree
•1 cup barley
•6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter (could substitute olive oil by 1/2 but butter tastes best)
•1 lb. fresh cremini mushrooms (baby bellas), brushed clean and sliced
•1 clove garlic, minced
•Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
•4 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
•1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
•6 Tbs. sour cream (optional)
Place the shanks (or beef stew meat) in a saucepan and add water to cover generously. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming often to remove any foam that forms on the surface. (Never allow a stock to boil. As meat and bones cook, they release proteins and fats into the surrounding liquid.... At a slow simmer, these components appear as scum on top of the stock and can be skimmed. If the stock is boiling, these substances are churned back into the stock and become emulsified. The resulting stock is cloudy and has a dull, muddy, greasy flavor, which will only worsen if the stock is reduced for a sauce").
Add about two-thirds of the chopped onions, the carrots and celery, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Add the tomato puree and barley, cover partially and continue to cook over low heat until the barley is tender, about 1 hour more.
While the soup is cooking, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the remaining chopped onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until pale gold, 10 to 12 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium and sauté until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and 2 Tbs. of the dill.
Remove the shanks from the pan (if using) and, when cool enough to handle, cut the meat from the bone. Chop and reserve the meat; you should have about 1 1/3 cups.
Add the mushroom mixture and the reserved meat to the pan and stir to heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with sour cream and parsley if desired.
Note: I used beef stew meat. However, for a more superior flavor use beef or veal shanks. If using beef stew meat there's no need to remove the meat after it's been cooked to cut into bite size pieces. The beef stew meat already comes that way.