Something wonderful happens over the long simmer in the slow cooker: The barley cooks to tender-chewy perfection, the beef becomes meltingly tender, and the liquid thickens to a beautiful gravy. Go with hulled, whole-grain barley here, and skip quick-cooking pearl barley; the latter isn't whole grain, and it will cook to mush over the long simmering time. If you can't find hulled barley, you can try wheat berries, whole-grain farro, rye berries, or Kamut instead. This soup is great for freezing, as it thaws and reheats beautifully.
4 cups unsalted beef stock
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup uncooked hulled (whole-grain) barley
1 cup water
1 cup sliced celery
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 large thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds beef stew meat, divided
2 1/2 cups (1-in.) pieces carrot
Est. added sugars 0g
How to Make It
Stir together first 8 ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves; dollop tomato paste on top.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add half of beef; cook until well browned, about 6 minutes, turning once. Add beef to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef. Scatter carrots over beef. Cover and cook on LOW until meat and grains are tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Ladle stew into 8 bowls; sprinkle with thyme leaves.
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I had two issues with this: 1) either my co-op mislabeled the hulled whole grain barley, or it, too, turns to mush in the crock pot. It was rather oatmeal-y. The deconstructed barley impacted the flavor of the gravy. :( 2) I would have liked clearer directions on the beef. Chuck or roast? Cubed or a big hunk? Cubed?
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