Mushroom, Barley & Leek Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
For the soup:
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small leeks, white and pale green parts, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, either mince or very thinly sliced; I prefer the latter as it seems to take some of the bite out of the garlic
1/2 lb cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1 cup pearl barley
4-5 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and garlic and sauté until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and wine, store to combine and cook for 4 minutes. Add the barley and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the meatballs.
1 lb ground chicken breast meat
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp minced flat leaf parsley, plus 1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large baking sheet with heavy duty foil and lightly coat with oil. In a bowl combine the Parmesan, egg, bread crumbs, tomato paste, 2 Tbsp parsley and 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper. Mix thoroughly. Then add ground chicken and gently mix to combine. The mixture will be very sticky.
Gently shape the mixture into small meatballs and transfer to baking sheet. My own note here: Be very gentle when forming meatballs (of any kind). You don't want to "pack them" together. As you can see here, mine are kind of gnarly shaped, but that's what makes them light, not tough. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Add the meatballs to the soup and stir gently. If the soup is too thick, add more broth and heat through. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with the 1/2 cup chopped parsley and serve.
I hope you enjoy this soup as much as my husband and I do :)