First, the latter. We amplify the savory side of this soup by sauteing a half pound of mixed mushrooms. And for good measure, we also add a handful of dried porcini mushrooms.
For starchy comfort, we top the soup with pillowy soft dumplings. And to tie it all together, we lace the dumplings with savory Parmesan cheese.
Want to make it vegetarian? Just substitute vegetable broth and leave out the chicken.Start to finish: 45 minutes
For the soup:
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 pound mixed sliced mushrooms
2 medium shallots, sliced
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1/2 cup pearled barley
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Ground black pepper
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
For the dumplings:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
In a small bowl, combine the porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of boiling water. Set aside.
In a large deep pot, such as a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the mixed mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with salt. Saute until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the shallots and the leeks and continue to cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the chicken and cook just until browned. It does not need to cook through. Add the barley, rosemary, thyme, a few grinds of black pepper, the broth and the porcinis with the soaking water. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Stir in the Parmesan. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk, then the melted butter. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined.
Drop the dumpling mixture by the tablespoon onto the top of the soup. Cover, bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
Per serving: 760 calories; 310 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 35 g fat (16 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 170 mg cholesterol; 72 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 40 g protein; and 1,260 mg sodium.