Barley Soup with Porcini Mushrooms

Source: Food and Wine online, recipe by Daniela Seguso and Marika Seguso
adapted by There's Always Thyme to Cook

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (2 cups)
2 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound pearl barley (1 1/4 cups), soaked overnight and drained
3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a bowl, cover the porcini with the warm milk and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. Rub the porcini in the milk to rinse off any grit, then coarsely chop them. Reserve the milk.

In a large saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook over moderate heat until browned, about 15 minutes. Add the porcini and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the stock, bay leaf and barley and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer until the barley and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the reserved milk, stopping when you reach the grit at the bottom. Simmer for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, passing olive oil and Parmesan cheese at the table.

Make Ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Add more stock when reheating if the soup is too thick.

*NOTES: I added a small package of fresh button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, sauteed in oil, with a very small, chopped shallot. Added it to the soup with the carrots, celery and onions. Also added a splash of Sherry and about a 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. I used baby Yukon Gold potatoes and didn't peel them, but cut them in quarters. Otherwise I pretty much followed the recipe. Except for soaking the barley. I didn't bother to soak but simmered for a longer time. And adding some extra stuff. So I didn't follow completely. Everything is adaptable. We loved the soup!