Short Rib Barley Soup - Like a Warm Hug from Your Beefiest Friend

If you had told me, even two years ago, that one day I would open up the crisp white butcher paper of a package from Clancey’s Meats and Fish, gasp at the stunning beauty of a couple of beef short ribs and run for my camera, I would have told you you were nuts. If you had told me that I would decide to write my next article about short ribs solely because the picture was so fantastic, I would have told you you were double nuts. If you had told me that while I was going all Richard Avedon on the short ribs, I would simultaneously be cursing myself for not having bought more of them, I would have paused, shrugged and agreed that it sounded like something I might do. If you had told me that I decided to stretch the short ribs by making a soup, I would have raised my eyebrows and been duly impressed by my smart and thrifty, albeit batty, food-smudged-camera wielding future self.

We can all thank those beautiful short ribs that Clancy’s brings in from Thousand Hills Cattle Company for this Short Rib Barley Soup recipe. Not only is short-rib meat fall-apart tender after a long slow braise, you get the added benefit of those savory bones bumping around in the broth releasing all of their mysterious meaty goodness. The broth is rich, substantial, and warm, like the most exquisite brown velvet cloak – only better, because you can eat it! The barley is the perfect vehicle to soak up the gorgeous broth and provide some chew and heft to the soup. I added parsnips to my regular mirepoix of onions, carrots, and garlic and they lent an ever-so-subtle sweetness to the dish. I also added some sautéed mushrooms, and next time I might add cubed squash as well. It’s the kind of easy going recipe that will easily accommodate whatever you need to use up from your larder.

In this quickly darkening time of year, can there possibly be a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than making a soup? I think not. And when eating that soup is like getting a big bear hug from your strongest beefiest friend? Well, then, I double think not. Enjoy.

Short Rib Barley Soup – loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 or more big, meaty short ribs

4 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped parsnips

4 cloves chopped garlic

1/2 cup red wine

8 cups organic beef broth

½ cup barley

1 Bay leaf

½ tsp thyme

salt and pepper

1. Generously salt the short ribs. Heat half the olive oil and brown the short ribs on all sides over high heat. Once you put them in the oil, don’t move them around before you flip them. Let them brown! Remove from the pot.

2. Add the rest of the olive oil and the onions, carrots and parsnips. Turn down the heat and slowly cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking a few more minutes until garlic is cooked through. It’s a good idea to take your time with this step – the slowly caramelized aromatics add A LOT of flavor to your final dish.

3. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up all the brown bits at the bottom with a wooden spoon.

4. Add the broth and spices. Put the ribs back in, cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for at least 3-4 hours.

5. Cool the soup over night in the fridge and in the morning scrape off the layer of fat at the top and discard. There will be a lot of fat from the short ribs, which is why I find it easier to skim it off in its solid form.

6. Rewarm the broth, take the meat off the bones, chop it and put it back in the soup. Add the barley and cook about 45 minutes until tender.

7. Check for seasoning and serve with crusty bread and a simple salad.


Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog