This soup is kind of a mutt, but I love it anyway (mutts tend to be lovable, don't they?). In making it, I thought a little bit about corn chowder and tom kha tai soup, although the resulting product doesn't really resemble either. It's a nice blend of earthy and fresh flavors, well suited for these waning days of spring and summer starts to really hit.
Besides bringing together all these great flavors, I wanted a soup that would be a good vehicle for chervil from my herb garden. Chervil looks a lot like parsley, and I've read they are related, although I think chervil has a pretty different flavor--more floral and less sharp than parsley. Lacking chervil, which I've never been able to find in a grocery store or farmer's market (hence my desire to try growing it), you could substitute fresh parsley.
Bacon Barley Kale Corn Mushroom Soup
1/2 pearled barley
6 oz. hickory-smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips (lardons)
1 sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1 bunch of kale, stemmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
2 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
1 tsp. arrowroot powder
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (may substitute apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, but not dark balsamic vinegar)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil (may substitute parsley or other leafy green herb)
1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add barley, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 40 minutes. Remove lid and set aside.
2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisped. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove any bacon fat from the pot in excess of about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the kale and cook about 2-3 minutes until it begins to wilt. Add the chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf and increase heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Add the corn, cooked bacon and cooked barley and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
3. Mix arrowroot powder with 1 tbsp. water to create a slurry then stir into the pot. Add the vinegar and cream and stir to combine. Serve in bowls topped with a sprinkle of fresh chervil.