Creole Garbure

In the late 1970s, in the last decade of its century-plus history, Maylie’s was an interesting restaurant relic, standing at the corner of O’Keefe and Poydras, where Walk Ons is now. It was operated by its second-generation owner Willie Maylie and his wife Anna May, two people who I cannot imagine living anywhere but in New Orleans. I was a regular diner there, and became good friends with the Maylies. I especially enjoyed Willie’s history of Creole-French cooking, a perspective from fifty years earlier. Some of the dishes he cooked were extinct everywhere except at Maylie’s.

This is one of them. The recipe came from Madame Esparbe, whose family were partners with the Maylies in the late 1800s. It’s a distinctly New Orleans take on an old French soup with Basque influences. I found the recipe in Maylie’s charming but incomprehensible little cookbook. I had to cook this a few times to get what I remember of Willie’s version of it.

This is definitely one of those soups that’s better the second day. Also, a historic garbure is made almost entirely of vegetable and meat scraps. You don’t have to follow my list of those ingredients. Use what you have on hand.

  • 1 cup white navy beans
  • 3 bunches of collard greens, washed and picked of large stems, sliced into ribbons
  • 2 slices lemon
  • 1 lb. pork shoulder, fatty portion, cut into medium dice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 onion, chopped coarsely
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts brisket stock
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 fresh or pickled birdeye pepper, chopped
  • 3 whole cloves (the spice)
  • 1 large white potato
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Soak the white beans overnight. The next morning, cook them for about an hour. Drain and reserve.

2. Bring two cups of water to a light boil. Add the collards and the lemon slices. Cook until the collards are tender but not falling apart–about five minutes. Remove the lemon, drain, and hold aside.

3. In a large saucepan, cook the pork cubes to render as much fat as possible, and to get them a little crisp. Add the flour and stir to make a light roux. Lower the heat, add the onions and the garlic, and cook until translucent.

4. Add the beef stock to the pot and stir to blend the ingredients. Add the thyme, birdeye pepper, cloves, the beans and collards. Bring to a light boil and lower to a simmer. Cool for about an hour and a half.

5. Cutting the potato into cubes. Add the potato and salt to the soup and cook about twenty minutes more. When the potatoes are cooked enough to eat without a crunch, the soup is ready. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves six.

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