2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, cut into ½-inch cubes
3 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 medium ribs celery, cut into ¾-inch pieces
6 large sprigs dill, plus ¼ cup chopped dill, for garnish
5-6 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds bone-in skinless chicken breast halves
¾ cup uncooked pearl barley
Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat; reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften.
Stir in the mushrooms; cook for about 4 minutes, then add the carrots, celery, dill sprigs and 5 cups of the broth. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken breast halves in the broth, bone side up. The broth should just cover the chicken; if it doesn't, add some or all of the remaining broth as needed. Poach the chicken, uncovered, until it is cooked through, 30-45 minutes; reduce the heat as needed so the liquid does not boil. The timing will depend on the thickness of the breast halves. Use tongs to transfer to the chicken to a plate to cool.
Stir the barley into the soup; increase the heat to medium-high. Once the broth comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low to maintain a low boil. Partially cover and cook until the barley is tender, 40-45 minutes.
When the chicken is cool to the touch, pull the meat off the bone; discard the bones and any visible fat. Tear the meat into large chunks, about 2 inches or so. Once the barley is tender, discard the dill sprigs. Return the chicken to the pot; add the remaining chopped dill, stirring to combine. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve hot.
Serves seven to eight.
Nutrition values per serving (based on 8): 260 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 20 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 29 g protein, 65 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium.
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick for The Washington Post