8 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups soup and 2 tablespoons pesto)

Habanero peppers are fiery hot, so handle them carefully. In this dish, you simply pierce the chile with a fork and float it in the broth as the soup cooks. Remove it with a slotted spoon before serving. If you prefer milder heat, use the same technique with a jalapeño.

How to Make It

Step 1

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.

Step 2

Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Place chicken and thyme in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cover with 4 1/2 quarts cold water; bring to a simmer. Skim fat from surface; discard. Remove stems and center ribs from Swiss chard. Coarsely chop stems and ribs; reserve leaves. Add stems, ribs, and next 5 ingredients (through apple) to pan; bring to a simmer. Pierce habanero with a fork; add to pan. Cook 35 minutes or until chicken is done.

Step 3

Remove chicken from pan; cool slightly. Remove chicken from bones; chop meat. Discard bones, thyme sprig, and habanero. Strain barley mixture through a sieve over a bowl. Reserve 4 cups of broth for another use. Return remaining 6 cups broth to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes. Return chicken and barley mixture to pan; bring to a simmer. Add mushroom mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper.

Step 4

To prepare pesto, cook Swiss chard leaves in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain. Place leaves, walnuts, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with soup.

Ratings & Reviews

Darisse's Review

November 16, 2013
This was way too much effort with not much reward. I should have really thought about all the ingredients--none of them add any real seasoning to the mix and even with added Kosher Salt and Season Salt (my go to seasonings), it wasn't very good. The pesto did add to the flavor but it took too long to be worth another try.

jenleong22's Review

October 18, 2011
This soup has great bones, but some flaws that are easily fixed: 1) Use about 1/4 amount of the bacon (it's so overpowering), or perhaps use pancetta rather than American bacon. 2) Go heavier on the vegetables and especially with the barley. I also added some additional chard leaves to the soup. Will definitely make it again, and will continue to make adjustments until it's perfect!

SoniainTexas's Review

May 09, 2010
I really enjoyed this soup except I did not care for the pesto at all......I will skip that step next time. Also I do not care for butternut squash so I substituted for yellow squash.

coolcook's Review

February 06, 2010
Thought had great flavor. Modifications: Cooked chicken breast in the oven and diced and added to the soup at the end. Used 4 cups of chicken broth and 3 of water to make the base of the soup. Simmered the barley and veggies in the chicken broth and added the swiss chard leaves for the last 5-10 minutes. Omitted mushrooms but used zucchini instead. Would make again.

klasshen's Review

November 28, 2008
I agree with the previous review--while the pesto was delicious, the bland soup was certainly not worth the effort. I added dried sage and much more salt and pepper to give the soup any flavor. However, I will make the pesto again as it was fantastic on crostini. I used red swiss chard to make the pesto because it's what I had on hand, and the result was a beautiful pink spread.

willrun4food's Review

November 12, 2008
Soup was good but not worth the time. The pesto however, was very good. I used it the next day on top of fresh sliced tomatoes with a slice of mozzarella on top. Add a little olive oil and a dash of fresh ground pepper, yum! My hubby loved it.