When I’m sick, I really just want comfort food. I had bought some mushrooms, so I got it in mind that I wanted to make a stew with beef, mushrooms, and barley. This sounded filling and satisfying, and very homey and comforting. Since I’m still not 100% better, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking and standing over the stove. Also, since we’re having unseasonably warm weather for mid-October (record high of 88 yesterday!!), having the stove or oven on for any amount of time would be intolerable. Our air conditioner just doesn’t work well enough to counteract the heat from the kitchen.
The recipe for Beef and Barley Stew with Mushrooms included everything I wanted to use – except that it’s made on the stove. I can make stew on my own, without a recipe, but I don’t have confidence that I would season things adequately in the crockpot. So, I decided that I would use the ingredient list from the recipe, and just dump it all in the crockpot and see how it turns out.
Is that cheating, since I’m not following the instructions from the recipe? Maybe. I think that being sick, and the weather being hot, excuses me. I know that my version won’t be as rich and delicious as the original, because I won’t have browned beef, caramelized vegetables, and deglazed the pan to get at all of that flavor. My version will have been a lot easier, though, since it just involved chopping, measuring, and turning on the crockpot.
I had about 1.25 pounds of beef, so I used twice as much mushrooms as the recipe called for. I used bouillon cubes and water in place of broth, and I had ground thyme instead of regular dried. I put all this in my 6-quart crock pot. I cooked it on high for 4 hours because I’ve seen a lot of soup recipes (that include barley) that cook for that long. I stirred it for a minute after it was done to make some of the starch from the barley make the broth creamy.
This was pretty good. I think that browning everything on the stove might have given additional depth to the stew, but I’m very satisfied with the way it turned out for the minimal amount of time I put into it. The beef was very tender. I like the way barley adds thickness to the broth without having to use flour or other thickeners (I actually add barley most times I make beef stew or soup). This was savory and satisfying. I just wish I’d added some carrots to it to brighten up the way it looks, because it’s definitely very brown. I think this’ll make good leftovers, but I know I’ll have to add a little liquid to it when I reheat it because the barley soaks up all liquid available. I’d make this again.