Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bastard Garbure

Garbure, literally, "the whole grab", is a classic French soup or stew, depending on your point of view and your ingredients. Garbure, like bouilliabaisse, gumbo, and cioppino, is a Helen-of-Troy dish: people willingly go to war over what goes in the pot. Elizabeth David lists goose fat, onion, tomatoes, piment basquais, confit, and ham. (46) Paula Wolfert's version takes three pages and nineteen ingredients, calling for, among other things, a ham hock, a duck carcass, pancetta, garlic, duck fat, onions, leeks, celery, and duck confit. (43-45) In The Pleasures of Slow Food, Corby Kummer gives us Georgette Dubos' version, calling for smoked bacon, turnips, and the confit. Her recipe serves ten. (99)

Having no urge to fight, and feeding only two people and one cat, I humbly offer a highly bastardized verson of "La Garbure Landaise." I was inspired by the contents of my fridge: duck confit, aged since December, a huge collection of poultry bones that needed to be cooked down into stock, two bunches of farm carrots, leeks, and shallots. I also have two small cabbages, and as of this writing, remain unsure whether or not to add some. I don't want the cabbage to take over the entire dish, as brassicas are wont to do. To avoid this, I would need to cook the cabbage separately and add it tomorrow, when I intend to serve this. So we'll see.

I began this morning by making the stock: quail carcasses, frozen into one bristling bunch, a chicken carcass, the ends of some leeks, carrots, and garlic. A bay leaf and some peppercorns. I reached into the pot and tried to break up the quail glacier barehanded. A renegade bone slashed the pad of my middle finger, resulting in a shallow cut that bled profusely. I managed not to ruin the stock.

At noon I strained the mess into another stockpot, adding fresh carrots, two shallots, and more garlic. I splashed in a little Armagnac. Then I hefted the duck confit jar out and set it on the counter to warm up a bit. Just now I fished out two legs with a minimum of the duck-fat-everywhere experience inherent in confit. I began tearing meat from the legs only to be rudely interrupted by the cat, who jumped on the counter, demanding treats. I got him down with promises of sharing later, dumped the meat and bones into the pot, and am now contemplating whether or not to add a little rice. I know, this is the bastardized part. But I like a thick soup.

I'll let this go a couple more hours, on a very low heat, then cool it and serve tomorrow. This is definitely the sort of soup that benefits from waiting. It is also a very farewell-to-winter soup, which seems appropriate on Daylight Savings Day. I loathe daylight savings. But we must eat, and why not celebrate losing a precious hour of my weekend by making soup?

Meanwhile, we'll hope the Trojan Horse isn't waiting outside the door.

Works cited:

Elizabeth David: French Provincial Cooking. Penguin Books: New York. 1970.

Corby Kummer: The Pleasures of Slow Food. Chronicle Books: San Francisco: 2002.

Paula Wolfert: The Cooking of Southwest France. John WIley and Sons: New Jersey: 2005.


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