Inaugural Garbure

“I do gravely swear on the curly ends of a Gascon’s mustache that I will faithfully execute the garbure  and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend traditional, regional French cookery.”

Having not had a meter stick’s worth of traditional garbure against which to measure this hearty one, the execution and assembly was inspired by sound theory and practical methods of French cookery. It was fabricated to celebrate the folks’ visit to the nation’s capital and the inauguration of our first foreign born socialist president in January.

The fundamental pillars of the soup which eats like a stew are cabbage, lingot beans (either Tarbais, coco or maïs –from a yellow skinned pod), winter vegetables and an assortment of fowl (generally giblets and confit legs) and pork products. Despite the president’s adherence to a strict regimen prohibited of pork as per the clerical guidelines of his Muslim faith, pork products exclusively provided the auxiliary protein: smoked ham hocks, salted pork belly, pork shoulder and espelette sausage. The ham hocks were purchased in their smoked state yet the salted belly and sausage were fabricated at home, naturally.

Neither Tarbais nor coco beans were readily available and the contempt for Whole Frauds’ pricey conventional items and overpriced organic ones required that small navy beans be substituted. The beans were soaked overnight and cooked in seasoned water until just tender –they would continue cooking in the stew.

Vegetables were comprised of green cabbage, carrots, parsley root, turnips, rutabaga and red pearl onions. The cabbage was cut into thin wedges and caramelized in pork fat. Carrots and parsley root were halved then beveled, turnips and rutabaga were turned into crescents and along with the onions were glazed in their proper turn in pork fat and finished with a splash of vinegar for acidity and to preserve their bright color.

The meats were browned in a cast iron Dutch oven with pork fat, then covered with the beans and their liquid, the vegetables and simmered over a low flame until the sausage, belly and butt were cooked through.

Executive summary: A hearty stew indeed, though admittedly heavy handed on the sodium what with the bacon, sausage and ham hocks. The beans could have been more lightly salted during their cooking. The cabbage slices were not the proper type of cut for this particular application. The wedges lost their integrity and ended up flapping around in the stew like wayward rags. Ideally, the cabbage should have been cut into small squares. The parsley root was more of a novelty and took an absurd amount of time to cook tender. Parsnips should have been used instead.

The espelette sausage was well executed and particularly savory and the smoked ham hocks introduced an appropriately smoky element reminiscent of it coming off a hearth’s fire. The turned vegetables may have contradicted the humble, rustic nature of the dish, but such knife cuttery highlights an attention to detail, discipline and showmanship.