Garbure des Pyrénées

October 24, 2014
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
  • 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
  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.