Winter

Garbure des Pyrénées

October 24, 2014
3 Ratings
Photo by Oddur Thorisson
Author Notes

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.
Mimi Thorisson

  • Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried white beans
  • 2 pounds smoked ham hock
  • 1/4 cup rendered duck fat, or extra-virgin olive oil, or unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 6 carrots, halved crosswise and cut into 1 1/2-inch (4-centimeter) sticks
  • 5 leeks, white and pale green parts, coarsely chopped
  • 4 onions, quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 medium Savoy cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pig's tail, optional
  • 6 small to medium russet potatoes
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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.

11 Reviews

Marguerite January 30, 2021
This is an authentic, traditional recipe, although garbure is different from place to place. When I spent a week in the Midi Pyrénées in 2012, garbure was the local, traditional dish. It was on every restaurants’s menu, but I never saw it outside that departement.

I think of Garbure as a cousin of cassoulet but with more vegetables (cabbage, carrots, etc.). In the area where I stayed, their garbure included a ham hock, sausages, and duck legs confit, plus lots of Tarbais beans. It was very thick, without clear broth.

(In my experience, the French generally do not like al dente vegetables the way that Americans do. When I returned to France for 3 months in 2019, vegetables such as asparagus, carrots, green beans and cabbage were always cooked until soft — from Le Gard in the south to the Aveyron, the Dordogne, Corrèze, and Paris. So it did not surprise me that the vegetables in this garbure were quite tender.)

I was very happy to find this recipe, although I adapted it to be more like the garbure I knew. I do think the type of beans matters. I found Tarbes beans online at Rancho Gordo and D’Artagnan.
Also, I think a key is to simmer at a very low heat where the liquid hardly bubbles.

Thank you for the recipe!
 
Michael December 16, 2019
I've made this soup several times and you'd think I'd have figured it out by now. With this recipe, I think that timing is everything! The soup becomes mush if you follow the directions implicitly. Personally, I think adding the carrots and cabbage at the end of process would yield more satisfactory results. I mean, who likes soggy carrots or cabbage, or a soup with the consistency of oatmeal anyway. Mrs. Thorrison is most certainly holding back some of her year of experience on this one. I do love the flavor though so, I’ll likely give another go, perhaps using instinct instead. I just wish I could nail the timing, find the perfect proportions and have a lovely clear broth in abundance instead of oatmeal. Having toothsome carrots and just wilted cabbage, and not to many beans, would be a wonderful thing too.
 
Kevin M. February 8, 2019
an this be done in a slow cooker overnight minus the potatoes
 
Marguerite January 30, 2021
Yes, I think it can, although I have not done it. Garbure was traditionally left in a big kettle over the banked fire all night, to cook slowly. After it was ladled out for a meal, the family simply added some more vegetables, meats and beans the next night. So it seems ideal for a slow cooker.
 
Clover88 January 5, 2015
Followed the recipe as is. Good flavor and not too salty.
 
Matilda L. November 11, 2014
I found that my ham hock was tender in 2 hours and 1 hour 15 minutes was ample time for the beans and potatoes. I assume the pig's tail will add gelatin (and therefore more body, or a richer, silkier mouth feel) to the broth.
 
Kevin J. November 6, 2014
One hour was not near enough time for the potatos, and beans.
 
Lisa M. November 1, 2014
what does the pigs tail do for the recipe? what will be different about the soup without it?
 
Stunwin October 31, 2014
So where does one find 2 lbs of smoked ham hock in the average grocery store? Is it just a matter of asking for a giant chunk-o-boar's head?
 
Suzanne M. October 30, 2014
Did you put the potatoes in whole?
 
chris October 30, 2014
This sounds delicious. Not a glamorous soup, but I'm looking forward to making it, this weekend. I'll be sure to raise a glass of Bordeaux, to Bernard.