Leek + Porter Beef Stew over Herbed Barley

Hello November, I can't believe you're here already, but I'm so glad you've brought an excuse for us to make cold weather comfort food. I woke up Saturday to wind, rain and frigid air that prompted a day indoors with blankets and a bird dog.  

I have to admit that I'm a pretty lucky lady. Robert's travel schedule this month consists of just that, travel. He was home for a couple of days in between Nashville and LA, and found time to make this lovely meal on Sunday. Speaking of Nashville, he brought me back Sean Brock's cookbook Heritage (likely out of sheer guilt from eating at Husk multiple times without me). I'm still drooling over the gorgeous photos and incredible sounding recipes.

Throwing together beef, vegetables and barley is a classic staple this time of year, and we always have fun dressing up a classic. If you're a beer drinker you probably have more porters on hand during the chillier months, and you can use whatever you have lying around that's heavier in body for this stew. Be generous with your barley seasoning, as that will add a lot of rich flavor to the base of the stew.  

Leek + Porter Beef Stew over Herbed Barley
serves 6-8

1.5 lb beef chuck, cubed
2 leeks, cleaned and diced
5 carrots, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
3 parsnips, chopped
12 oz porter or stout beer
4 cups beef stock
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 cup pearled barley
2 bay leaves
4 springs fresh thyme,
1 spring fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbs garlic powder
2 tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, warm 1 tbs olive oil. When shimmering, add beef to pot, season with salt and pepper and sear, undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Once a nice dark sear has formed on beef, remove from dutch oven. Add leeks and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once leeks and mushrooms have softened and a dark brown crust has formed on the bottom of the pan, deglaze with beer, taking care to scrape the bottom. Add parsnips, carrots, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Add beef, beef stock and an additional seasoning of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered for 1.5 hours or until beef is tender.

While stew is cooking, bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add barley, return to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered for 35-40 minutes, or until barley is slightly chewy. Remove from heat, mix in 1 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, thyme and rosemary.

To serve, top warm herbed barley with beef stew.