Some encounters are more serendipitous than others. You might work with someone your whole life and never become very close, or you might meet someone once and the encounter has a lasting impact. It could be something that was said, a piece of advice, a shared experience. In my case, it was a recipe. Bernard Vanderhooven is an antiques dealer I met by chance in Bordeaux.
He is a real bon vivant and we got on like a house on fire. His recipe for garbure, a hearty soup studded with chopped vegetables and pork, is simply the most comforting food you can imagine having on a dark winter’s night. When I make it, I sometimes think of Bernard coming into his lavishly decorated apartment after a long cold day at the antiques fair. I imagine him taking off his hat, greeting his cat, pouring himself a nice glass of Bordeaux, and enjoying a bowl of the soup he would have made the night before. I imagine he listens to jazz. Cheers, Bernard.
6 to 8
dried white beans
smoked ham hock
rendered duck fat, or extra-virgin olive oil, or unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
carrots, halved crosswise and cut into 1 1/2-inch (4-centimeter) sticks
leeks, white and pale green parts, coarsely chopped
Put the beans in a medium bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches (5 centimeters). Let soak overnight in a cool place. In a separate bowl, cover the ham hock with water and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, heat the duck fat in a very large pot, over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, and cabbage and cook until slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the ham hock and add to the pot, along with the pig’s tail, if using. Cover with water and bring to a low boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the ham hock meat is very tender, about 3 hours.
Drain the beans and add to the pot, along with the potatoes. Simmer until the beans and potatoes are cooked and tender, about 1 hour longer. Transfer the ham hock and pig’s tail, if you have it, to a cutting board. Remove the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Shred the meat into the soup and serve.
Mimi Thorisson is the author of Manger, a blog devoted to French cooking, and the host of La Table de Mimi on Canal+ in France. After a career in television and having lived in Hong-Kong, Singapore, London, Reykjavik, and Paris, she settled with her photographer husband, five young children, two older stepchildren, and the family's fourteen dogs in a rural farmhouse in Médoc.