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Tripe's Second Try

Written By Culinary Pen on Monday, May 17, 2010 | 6:39:00 PM

Although I'm always thrilled when a recipe comes out perfect the first time, it's the recipes that fail disastrously that keep me coming back to the stove. Sure, my trout almondine was great, but have I made it in the three years since then? Tripe in marinara sauce was one of these utter failures. And don't think it's because I don't like tripe; an Italian deli by my job makes a great tripe in marinara that they sell by the pint (really) for $5. But my first attempt tasted like leather that had been vulcanized into rubber. It wasn't good.

In the depths of despair, men turn to God. In my anguish, I turned to God's gift to American chefs, Thomas Keller. Of all the offal I've cooked, this was the worst. So I went to the best. In his oversized French Laundry cookbook, Keller outlines his mode of success for tripe. In a giant pot, put a thin layer of tripe on top of lots of sliced onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and turnips. Add on another thin layer of tripe and more stock vegetables. Press all this down until you've got a tightly packed stock pot of vegetables that just happens to have some tripe in it. It's like making a vegetable broth with tripe. The sweetness of the vegetables will mellow the tripe and leach out any "off" flavors. Then braise or simmer it for up to 12 hours.

I maxed out at 11 hours. That's when it was finally tender. The next day I took out the tripe, scraped out any specks of fat or clingy membranes, and rinsed it with cold water. Now, it was time to bring on the sauce. Unlike last time, when it was all tripe, I hedged my bets by making a sauce with both tripe and cannelini beans. Also, to appeal to my personal preferences, I made it a spicy arribiata sauce by adding a good crumbling of dried chiles.

And it worked! The creaminess of the beans eerily mirrors the tender tripe, but I'm just thrilled my tripe is tender and not tough as a boot. The heat of the chiles is also a nice way to smooth out the lingering barnyardy finish of the tripe. As the flavor of the tripe fades, the rising burn of the peppers has your mouth watering for another bite.
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