Sometimes life throws you curveballs, and when those curveballs happen in the kitchen—just like in any other area of life—you can either throw up your hands and give up, or adjust your swing and hit a home run.
This happened to me earlier in the week. I was sure that last year's garden potatoes would see me through one more meal, so I put a beef blade roast in the slow cooker with some homemade beef stock, salt and pepper, and decided I'd throw together mashed potatoes and some veggies later in the day.
The day was packed, and it turned out there was a 5pm appointment I had forgotten about, so my meal prep was limited to one hour, between 3:30 and 4:30pm. When I pulled out those potatoes, I realized I had been over-optimistic about their state. They were unusable. So then the question was: do I run to the store and buy some, or do I change my plan?
I decided to go with barley instead, and then a plan formed involving a composed dish that would contain everything in a beef barley soup, but dished up like a meal. I threw together a pilaf with ingredients I had on hand, prepped some broccolette for a vegetable, brought the pilaf to a boil, and set it to simmer while I was at my appointment.
The results were exactly as I had imagined. I got home at 6:15 to a silent household of kids and husband hunched over their plates. They hadn't dished it the way I had imagined it (pilaf in a bowl, topped with sliced beef with broth dished around it), but they were still enjoying it. I dished mine that way, and it was exactly as I'd hoped. So here's the recipe!
Deconstructed Beef Barley Soup
1 3 lb. beef blade roast
4 c. beef stock (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper to taste
The morning before you plan to serve the meal: Salt and pepper roast generously. Place in slow cooker, pour stock around it. Cook 7 or 8 hours on low.
1 c. pot barley
1/4 c. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1 Parmesan rind
3 c. water
1 T. salted herbs (or salt, pepper, and your favourite fresh herbs, or 1 t. dried herbs)
Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. When it is melted, add the vegetables and sauté for five minutes. Stir in the barley and continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Toss in the Parmesan rind and salted herbs and add the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for an hour. Add more water if barley is still tough when the water evaporates. Remove Parmesan rind before serving.
To serve, taste stock for seasoning, slice meat. Dish barley pilaf into a bowl, top with slices of meat, spoon broth around the pilaf.
I also spread Dijon mustard on the beef. SO good!
As an added bonus, I used some leftover pizza dough and supper fixings to make steak and cheese turnovers for lunch yesterday:
2 T. butter
One sliced onion
Leftover beef, cut in small cubes
Chopped, cooked broccolette
1/2 c. beef stock
1 c. grated old Cheddar cheese
Cook onion in butter until it is caramelized. Add in beef and broccolette, and heat. Pour 1/2 c. stock over, and simmer until stock is almost completely reduced. Let cool.
Spoon onto your favourite pastry dough (pizza crust, turnover dough, puff pastry), top with grated cheese, seal, and bake at 375F.