Chicken, Barley, & Okra Stew

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The first chicken and okra stew I should be posting is gumbo, yet, this stew holds a special place in my heart.

Stomach.

Well.

One of my favorite aunts used to make a similar soup, Chicken & Okra, all the time. It was just like a gumbo, but without a roux. It was really good, and I would make it from time to time in wintertime over the years.

One year, I was in love with barley. Not quick-cooking barley, but the whole grain barley that takes hours to cook, and leaves you with a rich stew that you could stand a spoon up in the next day.

At this same time, it was just after Hurricane Katrina and my uncle was undergoing chemo & radiation treatment. I started bringing them quarts of soup when I would visit. Turns out, the barley was easier to swallow than the rice they’d been eating it with. Plus, my aunt is allergic to rice, so, finally, a winning solution for her, too.

When my daughter was little (under 3), I used to send this for her lunch.   This is not a pretty soup.  Okra and barley? Yep, not pretty.  So, after sending this soup/stew over a few months, apparently my neighbor actually tried the soup.  And liked it.  So, now, whenever I make it, I usually send a quart or so across the street.

Imagine your grandmother’s chicken soup meets your Russian/German/European Grandmother’s chichen & barley soup (stoup – the kind that the spoon stands up in the next day) which then meets some very Southern okra…what do you get?

Something really good. A very hearty soup, as hearty and satisfying as any stew.

So, whenever I make this I am always reminded of my uncle, and of my daughter, and how much they both loved it.

Like any good chicken soup, it takes a while.  Some slow simmering.

  • 1 1/2 -2 pounds bone-in chicken parts
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2  diced bell pepper, red (is nice) or green or yellow,, too
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 16-ounce bag sliced frozen okra, or about 3 cups sliced fresh okra
  • 1/3 barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large, or 2 small bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2-4 cups water, as needed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon, if needed

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil until translucent. Once they are translucent, add the bone-in (I like the skin on, too) and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool. Immediately upon removing the chicken, add the okra and barley. Return to a boil, and let simmer for an hour or two. After about an hour and a half, the okra will start to fall apart when pressed with a wooden spoon. I usually break up the okra, and continue simmering. You will need to add more water; I added about 3 cups 3 different times. I also added 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon, separately, to taste.

Freezes very well.

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2 thoughts on “Chicken, Barley, & Okra Stew

    • Sorry! Left out the okra, too. Only about a 1/3 cup of barley. I’ve put as little as 1/4 and up to 1/2 depending on how big the chicken is if I’m using a whole chicken. It doesn’t seem like a lot of barley, but trust me, it is! Add water as needed.

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