Continuing a series of soup posts as the weather cools (here in the Northeast at least), I'm offering this rich vegetable garbure. Garbure hails from my favorite food region, Gascony, in the southwestern corner of France. (I wrote about it here for Conde Nast Traveler.) It would traditionally include some kind of confited meat and cabbage. This version, which I included in Ruhlman's Twenty, gets its depth of flavor from bacon rind, but you could substitute several slices of rind-on bacon, diced, or omit the bacon completely for a vegetarian soup. But pig skin, connective tissue, is loaded with a protein called collagen, which breaks down into gelatin to give the soup great body. If you can't find slab bacon with a rind to remove yourself, order it from your butcher or meat department. Or, better yet, cure your own!
My cooking tools boss, Mac Dalton, asked me to include a special offer on our soup and serving spoon set, something like 40% off, I believe, and good for the rest of this month. I honestly do love the offset-ness of these spoons because they rest on the edge of a bowl rather than slide into the soup.
Importantly, this soup requires no stock. I've built the stock into the recipe itself. As with my French Onion Soup, I prefer the clean, pure flavors that come from using only water.
Winter Vegetable Garbure
- 2 leeks
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, cut into medium dice
- 2 to 4 shallots, sliced
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- Kosher salt
- 1 piece bacon rind large enough to cover the bottom of the pan (about 8 inches/20 centimeters across)
- 8 cups/2 liters water
- 4 celery stalks; 2 whole, 2 cut into bite sized pieces
- 4 carrots; 2 whole, 2 peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste/puree
- 2 potatoes (about 1 pound/455 grams), peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound/455 grams white cabbage, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional but advised)
- About 1 ½ tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
- Cut the root ends from each leek and trim the ragged ends of the leaves. Halve the leeks lengthwise and wash thoroughly under cold water, checking for dirt between the layers of leaves. Cut the leeks off where the pale green turns to dark green. Cut the white and pale green parts crosswise into ½-inch/12-millimeter slices. Tie the green leaves together with butcher’s twine.
- In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sliced leeks, onion, shallots, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. As the vegetables cook, season them with a couple of three-finger pinches of salt (1 teaspoon). Reduce the heat to low or medium-low, lay the bacon rind over the vegetables, and continue to cook for an hour (they should be very soft but still pale in color, not browned). Lift the bacon rind about midway through and stir the vegetables.
- Add the water and bound leek tops, whole celery ribs, whole carrots, bay leaves, and tomato paste/puree. Raise the heat to high and bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for an hour.
- Remove the leek tops, celery, carrots, and bay leaves from the pot and discard. Remove the bacon rind (it can be scraped of excess fat and reserved, then cut into strips and fried as cracklings). Taste the broth and season with salt as needed. Add the potatoes, raise the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne. Add the cut celery, cut carrots, and cabbage, return the soup to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Season with the fish sauce (if using) and the vinegar. Stir the soup, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Serve garnished with the chives.
If you liked this post on Winter Vegetable Garbure, check out these other posts:
- My recent posts include Sweet Bell Pepper Soup, French Onion Soup, and the announcement of my new book of novellas.
- Looking to add some French recipes to your regime? Saveur shares 50 of them.
- Learn more about winter root vegetables.
- Another great recipe blog to stay in tune with is Smitten Kitchen.
© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.