This is loosely based on a recipe by the late food writer Laurie Colwin that appears in her book, Home Cooking.
Makes about 4 quarts soup
3 pounds meaty short ribs or flanken
1 ounce dried porcini soaked in 1/2 cup hot water and chopped (filter the soaking water and add)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 large white onions, peeled, halved and minced (food processor is fine for this)
3 large leeks, half the green trimmed away, root ends removed, halved, and thinly sliced, then washed repeatedly until the water is no longer sandy
4 or 5 thin, sweet carrots, ends trimmed, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 pound small white mushrooms rinsed and sliced or quartered
1/2 cup pearl barley
4 quarts water
Bouquet: 4 6-inch ribs celery, 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
Salt and pepper for finishing
Wash off the meat and place it in the bottom of a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add all the ingredients up to the water.
To make the bouquet, arrange the celery ribs next to each other and place the herbs over the middle two ribs. Bring the two side ribs around to envelop the herbs and tie securely with kitchen twine. Add to the pan along with the salt.
Place the pan on medium heat and use a slotted spoon to skim any foam that rises to the surface. As the soup approaches a boil, regulate the heat so that it just simmers with the cover ajar.
Cook the soup for about 3 hours or until all the vegetables the meat are tender. Remove and discard the bouquet.
Remove the meat from the soup and separate it from the bones. Make sure to remove any white membranes from the short ribs. Shred the meat and return it to the soup. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and let the soup mellow for a few hours before serving.
For advance preparation, pack the cooled soup in quart containers and refrigerate or freeze it. Check the seasoning again when you reheat the soup.