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The Best Recipe: Soups & Stews, Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves  6

This soup works well with either portobello or cremini mushrooms. The portobellos will provide a darker and more mushroomy liquid, whereas the creminis will yield a lighter broth and a rounder, more beefy flavor.

• 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
• 9 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1 large onion, chopped medium
• 2 medium shallots, chopped small
• 1 pound (about 7 medium) portobello caps, wiped clean and cut into 1/4-inch dice, or 1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and cut into quarters
• 1 1/4  teaspoons salt
• 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped medium
• 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup pearl barley
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with 1 1/2 cups hot chicken stock, and soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Carefully lift the porcinis from the water, letting any grit stay on the bottom of the bowl. Chop the porcinis. Strain the soaking liquid through a strainer lined with a paper towel and set over a measuring cup. Set the porcinis and their soaking liquid aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and shallots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute.

3. Add the remaining 7 1/2 cups chicken stock along with the porcini soaking liquid, chopped porcinis, barley, bay leaf, thyme, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until the barley is tender, about 50 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.


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