photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 6 servings.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into chunks
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 pound button or cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 quart beef broth
3 cups water
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups pearl barley, uncooked
1 cup carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper
Fresh chopped parsley (for garnish)

In a large, thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add enough pieces of the beef to sear without crowding the pot. Salt the meat liberally and use tongs to turn the pieces so all sides get brown. Once the beef chunks are seared on all sides, remove and set aside in a bowl.

Use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and cook on medium-high heat. Sprinkle a little salt over the onions as they cook. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onions until they begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

When the onions have lightly browned, mix in the mushrooms and celery. Increase the heat to high. Cook the mushrooms and celery until they release their water, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Return beef to pot and stir in marjoram, thyme, and garlic. Add stock and water, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Stir in barley and carrots and continue to simmer, covered, for 40 to 50 minutes. Top each serving with black pepper and fresh parsley, or stir in these ingredients just before serving.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.