Thursday, May 15, 2008

French Laundry at Home Extra: "How To Cook Tripe"

I don't talk a lot about my day job on this blog, but in an effort to better illustrate today's post, I'll make an exception. I do a wide range of public affairs and media work for my clients, and sometimes they need me to arrange briefings and press events on Capitol Hill.

Not long ago, I did a press event on the Senate side that attracted the interest of a fairly well-known lobbyist who is more well-known for his smell-it-from-50-feet-away-I'm-not-even-kidding bad breath than he is for his work. I've seen people scurry around corners and duck into offices when they see him coming, because it's just so offensive.

At this event, I had the distinct pleasure of working with some well-known members of the Senate leadership. One in particular is a high-ranking Democrat from the midwest who is "on our side" with respect to my client's position on an issue, so I've gotten the chance to get to know him and his staff, and have nothing but the utmost respect for all of them. My respect for this Senator grew by leaps and bounds when I saw him exit this particular event, only to be greeted by the holy-crap-is-that-an-open-sewer-oh-my-bad-it's-your-breath lobbyist. The Senator's well-honed political veneer cracked before my very eyes as he literally recoiled from this man's breath, his eyes blinking furiously as he said, "Whoa" not quite as under-his-breath as I think he'd intended.

The lobbyist had no clue and kept on talking, and later turned down a politely offered piece of gum, oblivious to the olfactory havoc he wrought.

I'm sure you've all encountered that kind of smell before. One that nearly renders you unconscious, melts your eyelashes off, and leaves a black fog of death in its aftermath -- the memory of which stays with you far longer than you'd ever hoped.

And that, my friends, is what cooked tripe is like.

If this blog has proven anything, it's that I'm not a culinary wuss. In fact, even before starting this project, I'd have to say that I was a pretty adventurous eater. Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country means you're exposed to all sorts of pickled animal parts at an early age. And, thanks to a former employer that essentially paid for me to travel the world over the course of two years, I've been able to try a wide variety of foods I otherwise never would've known about.

I've eaten nearly every animal part imaginable, and for that matter, nearly every animal imaginable (including the time I was in Egypt and the waiter offered us "dinosaur" when he meant to say "iguana" -- one of the funnier translations I've ever encountered). And, what I wasn't able to eat or enjoy before, I've been able to have a new appreciation for thanks to The French Laundry Cookbook -- oysters, tongue, foie gras... the list goes on.

But tripe? I've never tried it before, even though I've seen it in the store and on the menu at my favorite El Salvadoran restaurant. My mother tells me that my grandparents used to eat tripe, but that's one memory I don't have. I either never witnessed it, or it was so awful that I repressed it so heavily and just can't recall it.

So, I decided to make tripe and see what happened. Perhaps it would trigger an amazing, homey memory of sitting at my grandparents' kitchen table. Or, it would make me want to burn down my house to get rid of the smell.

Gee, is that foreshadowing or what?

For those of you who have a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook, please turn to page 209 and follow along. The first thing I did was buy the tripe at the supermarket (notice what else I bought as an incentive to get through this dish?):


I brought the tripe home and cleaned it thoroughly as the book directed, because when I read the line "When it has been well cleaned, it will have very little odor," I expect it to be true. Ahem. Could that be more foreshadowing? Why, I just don't know.

I cleaned that tripe, scraped off all the excess membrane, rinsed and scraped it again and again, and really made sure it was clean as a whistle and had absolutely no odor.


This is honeycomb tripe, which is the reticulum -- or, second chamber of the alimentary canal (digestive tract) of the cow.

Next, I prepared the vegetables to cook with the tripe: carrots, onions, pasley, turnip:


I also thawed some veal stock, which I would then mix with white wine and pour over the layered tripe and vegetables:




I brought this to a simmer on the stovetop, then covered it and put it in a 275-degree oven for 6 hours.

During Hour One, there wasn't much of a smell. Hour Two, same thing. Hour Three and Hour Four, I noticed a meaty, almost Beef-a-Roni smell. Not too bad, really. By Hour Five, the scent had intensified, and another twenty minutes past Hour Five, something happened. The scent shifted in a split second and I was nearly knocked to the ground when I opened the oven door.

You know when you walk into a nursing home for the first time, and there's a distinct, rather unpleasant smell? Or, when you drive past a sewage treatment plant or paper mill? Or the airplane bathroom on a Southwest Airlines flight? Or a hospital's burn unit?

Those are all preferable smells compared to cooked tripe.


I drained the tripe, saving the liquid to make a sauce (why, I'm not sure. I know it's what the book suggested, but choking back my own vomit was difficult enough at this point -- why the hell did I want to make sauce?). I also called my friends and told them they didn't have to come over to try this. I wasn't so sure I was going to eat it myself. People, this smell was worse than morning breath and dirty hair after you've have the flu for three days and haven't brushed your teeth or showered at all.


I strained the liquid into another saucepan, reduced it, added some cream, a little mustard, and some salt and pepper, as the book suggested. By this time, my corneas had evaporated from the stench and my eyebrows started to fall out.


I then cut a small piece of tripe and put it in a bowl with some of the sauce. I also brought along a little liquid chaser, in case I needed it after tasting the tripe.


This? Was disgusting. Absolutely, positively the worst thing I have ever eaten in my life.

And I was surprised and really bummed. In some part of my twisted little mind, I really did have high expectations for this dish. I kind of wanted it to be excellent, so that I could amaze, astonish, and horrify my friends by ordering tripe when we went out. I wanted to be The Girl Who Is Not Afraid To Order Tripe And In Fact It Makes Her Even Cooler And All The More Sexy Because She Enjoys It. Alas, it was not meant to be.

I left my kitchen, cookbook in hand, and sat outside on the front porch to re-read the instructions to make sure I hadn't missed a crucial step. I hadn't. It was then that I saw the final sentence that wrapped up the instructions for the dish: "It's terrific."

It made me wonder how long it took Michael Ruhlman and Thomas Keller to come up with that sentence, because surely, it has to be some sort of inside joke or secret chef-to-chef code for a dish that is really awful but meant to be tried only in some sort of freakish dare. I imagine their exchange might have gone a little something like this:

Michael: So, we've described how to cook tripe, and we've included your story about the importance of cooking offal. Would you like to add something here at the end that describes what tripe tastes like?

Thomas: Yeah, sure. But in case someone, someday decides they want to cook every recipe in this book and maybe write about it, let's not deter them in any way, so how about we say, "It's absolutely fantastic!"

Michael: Thomas.

Thomas: Yes, Michael?

Michael: Fantastic. Really?

Thomas: Um, how about, "it doesn't suck... oh no wait, IT DOES!"?

Michael: Or, "hope you've got your fumigator on speed dial"?

Thomas: Oh, I know! What if we say "it's good" and you draw a picture of me doing air quotes around the word "good"?

Michael: *giggle*snort* Or, we could say it tastes like a word that rhymes with something else. Like "schmass"?

Thomas: Wait, wait, wait. I got it. Let's say it tastes terrific. After all, Michael, you went to the CIA; you've been inducted into the Secret Chef Jargon That Pranks Home Cooks Club -- you remember what "terrific" means, right?

Michael: Oh yes. Ha ha. But the regular reader won't know that now will they? We are so smart. This will most certainly encourage a potential home cook perhaps from the Washington, DC region to try this dish in like, I dunno, ten years or so, because she thinks it will be really great. Maybe we should tell her to pick up a donut when she buys the tripe.

Thomas: No need for that. She can make her own. Unless she sucks at that, too, which is a distinct possibility. Well done, Ruhlman. Well done. Terrific it is.

Michael: MWWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!

Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot.


Up Next:
"Head to Toe" Part One -- Pig's Feet

Resources:

Who cares? You're not going to make this. I won't allow it.


Music to Cook By: I refuse to sully any artist's name, discography, or reputation by associating them with this post. Oh, except for Celine Dion. Go ahead and listen to her and eat some tripe. I'm not sure which experience will be worse.

Read My Previous Post:
Meet Scott Weinstein, Fishmonger, BlackSalt

91 comments:

french tart said...

i know i've had tripe in my youth, but i can't remember what it tastes like. i imagine it can't smell any worse than the andouillette my mom goes out of her way to buy from her hometown butcher. that shey-ite is rank.

Anonymous said...

Tripe. Hmmm. My only comment would be, "why?". And, to use an opposite Rachel Ray-ism, "yucko". And "ewww" comes to mind as well. The saving grace is that you agree and are, as usual, hysterical. A few laughs on a Thursday morning are always welcome!

Keegan said...

Hah! From tripe to pig's feet, wow you are in for a treat! Honestly though, I do like tripe and this does look like a simple preparation. I might try it.

Tim said...

Thanks for taking one for the team.

You are correct, I will not be making this dish.

Your detailed, smelly imagery has made it's way to Texas and is indeed wafting out of my monitor right now, Ick! Stink alert, Stink alert. "Out D*mn smell"! Please un-invent smell-o-vision!

BTW, the photos of the veal stock and freshly cut veggies saved the post. Yum.

Michelle said...

Oh you are a brave woman! I would have skipped this one but I'm glad you didn't because it gave me quite a laugh this morning! Has the smell gone from your house?

Anonymous said...

I'm still on the breath thing. Who was the lobbyist?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Krysta said...

That whole imaginary conversation with Keller and Ruhlman was priceless. What a great way to wake up this morning.

Anonymous said...

Since I live in the boonies and have no access to tripe, I won't be smelling up my kitchen. However, I did try a first course of tripe in tomato sauce at Babbo in NYC, and enjoyed it. (Of course, I also like soft-shelled crabs, which may detract from my credibility.) I didn't detect any particular tripe aroma, but who knows what odor-suppressing tricks Mario's people have up their toques. Press on, Carol!

mike said...

Oh man, I was just looking at the Bouchon tripe recipe two nights ago thinking, 'It can't be that bad, right?'

Maybe I'll make it the next time I have pneumonia and already feel like I'm about to die.

deb said...

You're hilarious. I have many times made recipes that had me convinced there had to be some inside joke I wasn't privy to. Perhaps we need a code word for this type of experience, so I need not blockquote this entire entry next time it happens? "Terrific tripe," perhaps?

Andy said...

Sorry it didn't turn out well...but it made for a very entertaining story!

Beanie said...

Maybe you can take a gift dish of the tripe to your smelly lobbyist friend. Tell him it's terrific.

Chris said...

While not inspired to try this dish at home, I will give it a shot if I find it a restaurant. I have to agree with deb too, you are very funny. If only I could be so entertaining.

Cheers

Jennifer said...

Oh, this brings me back to when my mom MADE me eat tripe. I cried at the dinner table as I tried to repress my gag reflex. Big kudos to you Carol for making this dish. I came across this in the FL Cookbook and thought he just couldn't be right about it being great. Thanks for confirming my suspicions. How unfortunate that you had to waste prefectly good veal stock on this.

E said...

LOL
Does Ruhlman know that you just spilled the beans and broke the chef's code on "terrific"?
Hilarious as always. You really took one for the team, tripe is the opposite in terrific. I don't care how hung over I am, there is nothing that would make me eat menudo.

Hank said...

From The American Heritage Dictionary:

terrific
ter·rif·ic
adj.
Very good or fine; splendid: a terrific tennis player.
Awesome; astounding: drove at a terrific rate of speed.
Causing terror or great fear; terrifying: a terrific wail.
Very bad or unpleasant; frightful: a terrific headache.


Maybe Ruhlman wasn't being so misleading after all...

Disclaimer: I love tripe, especially in menudo...

Cynthia A. said...

Oh, what a waste of good veal stock! I know that you had to make it in order to have a complete project, but I just cannot imagine anything that starts out looking like rubber (those membrane folds are upsetting)turning into something succulent and tasty.

Um, thanks for being brave, you are a better woman than I. *shudder*

Terrorfic.

kitoko said...

Thanks for eliminating tripe from my future menu choices (not that it was up there very high in the first place). Kind of like tongue, not thrilled about chewing the thing that used to chew? Digesting the thing that used to digest isn't very appealing either. Let's see how the feet go. If they look anything like mine do, they will have "terrific toes!"

Moni said...

Hee-- I'm sorry this was such a painful cooking experience, but it was so at our amusement.

Tripe-wise, though, I've had amazing tripe at a couple local dim sum places. No clue what they do to it, but it's delicate & tender-- and doesn't stink like, well, tripe. I recommend Good Fortune in Wheaton or (my favorite) New Fortune in Gaithersburg.

wookeewookee said...

ROFL! I loved this story! Fantastic! Terrific! No, really. I spit milk over my shirt this morning while reading this.

Julie said...

Heh! Too funny! One of my most traumatic childhood eating memories (actually there were quite a few thanks to my mother -- an adventurous eater but a terrible cook)is the time my mother served tripe for dinner. I can remember nothing about it except my hysterical crying; perhaps I've repressed the whole smell thing.

Jeffrey said...

Fantastic story!

My own experience with tripe isn't much better. I was in a noodle shop on the outskirts of Hong Kong, dining with the locals. Not much English was spoken, but I managed to communicate "beef with noodles". I'd never seen tripe in person before, so I didn't know what was floating in a greasy, salty broth.

To this day, I wish I still had no experience with tripe.

spooneroonie said...

*does the "IToldYa" dance*

Does Ruhlman really giggle? That I have to see!

F'ntastic post, Carol. This one is my new favorite.

amber said...

the only time i've had tripe was in high school at a dim sum restaurant. it was, shockingly, tasty, once you got past how chewy it was. most of the taste came from the broth-based sauce as opposed to the tripe itself, which was basically tasteless. maybe you got ahold of a bad piece, hence the smell?

either way, i don't feel very inspired to ever try it at home and wouldn't suggest you give it a second go either. has the smell finally disappated, at least? :(

Ali said...

Yikes. If it's any consolation, you did a lovely job, pictorially, with such a nasty ingredient. I always pride myself on being willing to try new things-- I agree with the above poster who said, "thanks for taking one for the team", as I won't lose any sleep over bypassing this one on menus and/or cookbooks.

That said, I remember years ago when I was in college and went to Laredo, Texas for the Jalapeno Festival (yeah, that's right), and I had the most lovely tripas, or tripe tacos-- they were really good. I didn't inquire too closely about the preparation method, howev.

RT said...

You took one for the team --Thanks. And I wouldn't worry about losing your cool food/sexy quotient. I saw a Justin Timberlake interview where he said, "I thought to myself, if Carol can put the sexy into veal stock, then surely I can bring back sexy to music." What I do wonder about is "Raised Donuts." Was the other option Feral Donuts?

ann said...

holygoodlordgod! I am so torn by this post... In one aspect I'm so happy that you tried this recipe because I REALLY needed a good laugh, and boy did that provide!!! On the other hand though, I'm so sorry you had to go through this! Tripe can be so utterly nasty that I would never ever ever cook it in my own house no matter how much you paid me (unless you paid me enough to buy a second house in which to hide while cooking tripe, and it better be a nicer, prettier house than the one that I'm cooking tripe in).
Anywho, thanks so much for being funny and sharing! I needed that :-)

ruhlman said...

wuss.

JoP in Omaha said...

Well, there's at least one good thing about tripe.....it inspired an amazingly entertaining post!

michelle @ TNS said...

i got a little nauseous while reading this, which i have to assume was your intent.

my italian zias make tripe, and somehow it just smells like the wonderful tomato sauce it's in. i still don't eat it though. don't trust it. nope, don't trust it at all.

iamthetofu said...

Sweet Christmas, that sounds terrible. Thank you for suffering so that we don't have to.

My favorite part of the conversation is Michael's *gigglesnort*. Ha!

Shannon said...

I have to say that I really respect you. Once again, you have ventured into the culinary hinterland and saved the rest of us from having to.

John said...

Absolutely hilarious. I'm wearing a bit of my latte from reading your story, but the laughter was well worth this stain.

laurad said...

I am breathing through my mouth just thinking about the smell. In your pictures, the tripe looks like an old washcloth. Your presentation of the veggies and parsley is lovely, though. The smell description sort of reminds me of the horrible havluki (sp?) smell that permeates my mother in law's house: raw hamburger, cooked rice wrapped in cabbage leaves and cooked all day in a bath of tomato sauce. It gets in your pores. Hope the vodka helped.

meplus3 said...

I'm delurking to say that you really had me laughing here.
You've already eaten more things than I would have, and I would NEVER have eaten tripe!

velvetpdx said...

The image I have in my head of your face when you smelled and then tasted the "terrific" tripe is priceless! As for your lobbyist friend, he's either very ill and doesn't know it, or it's a canny maneuver of some sort in working his position...(maybe he really works for the other side)

Anonymous said...

Herbert Morrison, when he was describing the Hindenburg disaster as it happened said:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a terrific crash!"

Take that Ruhlman and Keller!

Deborah said...

This brings back the all too unfortunate time I decided to be brave and order andouillette at a restaurant in Paris where andouillette was a speciality. It smelled like a sewer and tasted worse; one bite and I was done. I still find it hard to believe that there are people who actually consider tripe edible.

Georgie said...

Thank you, I laughed so hard I'm still crying from this entry. Lived in SoCalifornia for years where menudo is supposed to be some miraculous hangover cure. I wouldn't know. I'd prefer to have a buzz saw going next to my hungover head for 24 hours rather than eat menudo - which, of course, contains the dreaded tripe plus the bonus of hominy. Yech.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a culture whose extreme foods are always used as a scare tactic in "Survivor" and "Fear Factor". I had tripe a lot growing up, and I never had a problem with it. It never had a smell or a taste. It was literally filler in our stews to make our meals last for our family of 6 kids.

MrsVJW said...

Most everyone seems to know that cilantro can be one of those "love it or hate it" things... I think a lot of other foods are, too.

The hubby's favorite - fried bologna - smells great to him, and a lot like Orange Vomit Powder to me. He's not allowed to make it when I'm in the house or due home within an hour. There is more than cilantro to this "love it or hate it" thing.

Hope the doughnut was at least good....

Carol Blymire said...

Okay -- a few updates and answers to your comments:

1) It took three days before the smell was completely gone from my house.

2) Some of you have emailed me to say, "hey, I like tripe, don't give it such a bad rap." My response to that is: this blog is about me writing about my experiences with food as I cook my way through this book. It's about my opinion on things based on my experiences. I did not, nor have I ever, tried to cook it (or any dish) 6 different ways and presented you with the best. I'm not here as an expert on cooking all things and all cuisines. I'm just showing you what happens when I take culinary risks -- good and bad. And this was my honest-to-goodness experience with tripe. If you want to read a food blog chock full of IMO, JMHO, YMMV or other crap at the end of every sentence, go somewhere else.

3) To the person who mentioned Good Fortune restaurant in Gaithersburg -- that is about the only place I would ever try tripe... because that restaurant is so good -- and so reasonably priced. And, I've met the family who owns it, so I trust them not to steer me wrong.

4) I went to an amazing dinner last night where I was able to meet some phenomenal chefs here in DC, and two of the best -- Charlie Palmer and Todd Gray -- told me that next time I should raise my own cow to get good tripe. Heh....

kitoko said...

Moo!
Spare us the pictorial of slaugtering your own cow...
hee hee

Hopie said...

Wow those sadist cooks and their prank jargon! You are a brave and generous woman to have tried cooking tripe and reported your findings. Thank you...and my condolences.

ntsc said...

Well forget your tripe troubles with a bacon bra.

http://www.asylum.com/2008/05/09/the-most-bizarre-bacon-products-ever/?icid=100214839x1202097146x1200076110

Ben said...

Omg, this was too funny. Long time reader, first time commenter. I simply had to comment this time around.

As a chinese-american, I've also eaten every animal and every part (willingly or unknowingly), and I loooove tripe immensely. I would have to say I've never seen it cooked this way, so I can't imagine what it would taste like, lol.

They actually cook em in two ways at dim sum restaurants, and I believe you can find them anywhere, and I invite you to try their recipes on any given sunday (when they would most likely offer dim sum). You're from around my neck of the woods (sorta), so I can safely recommend "New Fortune" which is located off Rockville Pike, as well as "Jesse Wongs Hong Kong" which is located in Columbia (MD). I know, a lil bit of a hike. But I couldn't bear to hear that you may have very well sworn off tripe for the rest of your life! Give it another chance! lol.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you needed to "tusk" the trip?

Kt said...

Great post! I've had tripe but have never cooked it myself--with no plans to do so in the future.

-Katie (another blogger from TP) :)

nakedsushi said...

I actually love tripe, but being Chinese means I'll pretty much eat anything that can fly, swim, or run on the ground. I usually eat it in pho, or cooked in shabu shabu.

Chef Andrew Little said...

Wow....such great writing. I really enjoy reading your posts and learning how you are moving through the book. For a chef who works too many hours, this is a great source of entertainment!!! Please keep up the GREAT work.

Carol Blymire said...

Ben: I will have to give it a try at New Fortune. I'll be in Rockville in a few weeks, so I'll stop by. I just need some time to recover from this particular experience. Columbia isn't all that far either, so perhaps I'll go there. Thanks for letting me know.

nakedsushi: I've heard it's great in pho -- there's a good pho place near me, so maybe I'll have to try it. You guys are tempting me, that's for sure.

Andrew: Right back atcha.

iko said...

Yeah, I'm with you here...tripe is NOT right. But I think the post was worth it, if only for you to put the mental image of Michael Ruhlman and Thomas Keller giggling like schoolgirls....

pdxblogmommy said...

Wait...that's not a white dishtowel in that pot there?

cook eat FRET said...

years ago i ordered tripe in paris at a famous bistro. the waitor suggested the tripe.

it was gross. tasted like shit. literally. i went to send it back and the waitor yelled at me. something about "you americans". i ordered something else anyway. they charged me for both...

fucking french...

Roberto N. said...

I have to stand up for tripe here! If you're ever down in Mexico, I'll be sure to treat you to some menudo, it's good for hangovers.

Great post though, and I have to commit you for the bravery...

Vicki said...

I think the Mexicans have it right - drown it in a spicy chili broth so you don't know what you're eating. I like menudo, but will never (especially after reading this hilarious post) try tripe any other way.

Schmoo said...

I ate tripe as a child (my brother and I used to call it "towel"), but I can't say I really liked it. Now I avoid the stuff. And it's because, as an adult, I was once subjected to the smell of tripe cooking. I will never forget that stench.

While living with my husband and me, my mom decided to cook a dish I'd eaten many times before. I almost kicked her out, it smelled so bad. Of course I didn't, so I ended up running out of my own home gagging. As Seinfeld said in that classic episode: "You need a priest to get rid of that smell!"

Though I can stomach eating a little bit of tripe if I had to, I will never, ever, in my whole life ever again, go anywhere near the smell of it cooking. I think you described it perfectly!

sd-b said...

Sorry to hear about your experience with the tripe. Like some previous commenters, I also love tripe at chinese dim sum but would never make it at home.

Although, I am a glutton for punishment so maybe I'll give it a go just to see what it's like...

Johnny said...

I love menudo!

C said...

I'm not sure how to say this, but could the recipe be to blame? I do not wish to insult Keller here, but if everything smelled fine at hour 4 and made you want to burn the house down at hour 6, then perhaps he got the time wrong? Or the temperature? Or left out an odor neutralizing ingredient (vinegar, vinegar, vinegar)?

Chelle said...

This post and the dough-NOTs had me laughing out loud.

Thank you for taking one for the team with the tripe.

als said...

This is the first post of yours I've read. Needless to say, I'm hooked.

Your writing style and general joie de vivre are infectious (just like the smell of tripe)...

HOARFROST said...

This is the back-story on the classic, visceral reaction of disgust: "What Tripe!"
I can also attest to New Fortune (though not to tripe in any form, save a very good menudo BROTH. But I may have been looking at it through Cuervo Gold-colored glasses.)
I wonder how many other people entertain themselves with imaginary Ruhlman conversations? I do the evil/good, tiny Bourdain on one shoulder and Ruhlman on the other to amuse myself. Maybe you could whittle some puppets in your spare time and get a French Laundry stage-production going. Commentary on every recipe.

Darius Kazemi said...

I keep trying tripe at restaurants, and keep not liking it. I thought that tripe pho would be good since Vietnamese food is sublime, but alas, even pho can't make tripe taste good. This is a relief to read, since I too want to be The Guy Who Likes Tripe.

condiment said...

Eating tripe: good, especially in the Roman style with mint and tomatoes. Cooking tripe: unbearable. As a Jew married into a Mexican family, I used to have to tend the menudo pot every Christmas Eve while my in-laws went to midnight mass. The smell was still in my house at new years...

Micki said...

I just stumbled upon your blog/project and I love it! I actually have a somewhat similar French Laundry cookbook story. A few years ago on Christmas morning, my husband and I each opened up a copy of the cookbook. We had each bought it for each other. Only my husband naively promised to make me a complete dinner from the book (my gift has no such generous promise). He was going to make an appetizer, entree and dessert. I told him that I appreciated the thought, but each recipe is more like ten recipes and it would take a month. The only way to get a full meal from the cookbook would be to it potluck. Hmmm...potluck! So that's what we did. Fourteen fellow foodies got together and did a French Laundry potluck at my house. It was fabulous! And we've done it several times over now with different chef cookbooks. I'm looking forward to following your adventure!

Micki

sally said...

You will love this >)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=YqIWZ6yGoBg&feature=related

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=468023&in_page_id=1773

maybe we forgot the bleach in US

CPTX said...

So funny! At first I thought maybe the tripe you bought was not clean - but by the picture it was. I cook tripe at home and have never had this experience as it cooks. I think the tripe was bad to begin with. I think the cooking finished breaking it down because cooked tripe does not have a such a strong odor. Too bad. Oh, I think pigs feet have a stronger odor - I always throw in a bunch of Bay leaves to help with this.

cybersmith said...

Good Lord, tripe is the tofu of meat! A fun to chew palate for the sauce you chose to flavor it with. My god, all the work you went to, I would think you had cut the tripe straight out of the cow instead of using the generally cleaned version you get from a butcher.

The secret to tripe is in the boiling. Most honey comb tripe I have found needs about three hours total cooking time or it looses some of the bounce I like in the texture. First you start by rinsing the tripe under cold water for a few minutes. Next comes the first simmer, about an hour, a little salt in the water maybe but save your flavorings for the second cooking.

After an hour throw out the cooking water and rinse again in cold water. At this point you can put the tripe in the fridge for finishing another night if you wish. Then comes the second simmer where it cooked with your flavorings, generally two hours and you are done. Five hours in a braise is just too damn long.

Most of the good tripe I have has been in a soup, stew or with a sauce. I have tried recipes for pan fried tripe (you still boil first) and was not thrilled by the texture.

It is a shame you did not have tripe prepared for you the first time you had it. I suspect your loathing may not have been quite as strong.

peter said...

What a great post. You've conclusively proven that- at least in cooking- failure is far funnier than success.

(Foreign policy, not so much.)

J.T. said...

You are usually very funny but this time... over the top funny. Excellent work.

I grew up near Lititz (howdy neighbor) and had tripe a few times as a kid; but only the pickled variety. Tasted like... vinegar. Nothing wrong with that.

But this? No. No, no, no. Not even if Grandma made it. Not after reading this.

Excellent work as always.

Anonymous said...

Try ordering tripe at Cantonese dim sum or in Vietnamese Pho. I've never encountered any smell, but the texture is a matter of preference.

Clare said...

Oh wow, Carol. Great post. One of the funniest.

Oh and SHUT UP, RUHLMAN! Carol is NOT a wuss. You and Thomas should be ashamed of yourselves. Terrific, indeed.

Of course, you know that when you get to TFL, tripe will be on the menu. Even if you tell them no, it will be on your menu. I suppose it will be Thomas' birthday gift to you.

Stephanie said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and your post cracked me up. I love tripe when I've had it in various dim sum restaurants, it really has no taste at all and is a canvas for the flavors of the sauce (which usually has star anise).

I've always been curious about trying it at home, but after reading this, I think I'll try a Chinese recipe first. At least the star anise will cover the smell a bit ;)

Tracy said...

Hi -- I have never cooked tripe but have eaten it on many an occasion and it never seemed like something that would smell in the kitchen. Each time I have had tripe (from Chinese to Italian restaurants) they have always seemed to take on the taste of whatever ingredients they were cooked in, and their texture is really the only thing that jumps out at you. Otherwise it is wholly dependent upon the method of cooking. I think you should give tripe another try (maybe you purchased a not-so-fresh one?) with a different recipe. Or better yet, go to a restaurant and have them prepare it for you. If you've had all manners of animal parts already as you say, I think tripe is one of the most neutral innards you can possibly eat.

hollerhither said...

I. really. hate. tripe.

Flavors/stenches from one's childhood, indeed. This was one of two stinky dishes my dad made with abandon on Sundays when he cooked. (The other, kimchi, I love now, as an *adult*.) Dinner would invevitably be one of those marathon stare-downs, the food congealing on my plate...shudder.

No tripe for me. So sorry you had to go through that!

zoe said...

Hi! First time commenter
The trick from my Yugoslavian grandmother: Initially boil tripe in pot of water with the addition of white vinegar - maybe a cup. Boil awhile. Slice in thin slices, add to pot with sliced sauteed onions and plum tomatoes, white wine, water. Simmer on stove top 6-7 hours. Trust me, excellent, no smell.

Roxana said...

Carol, I bow to you for this amazing blog and know you are by now over this terrific episode (love the video with the pig's head and katrina's reaction, hi-hi).
Honestly, I think you were long over due a failure, as impossible as it could be coming from TK's book, but what else can you say about this. You know, actually this tripe recipe doesn't incite me at all ( yap, right, who the heck am I...)
I love tripe and I ate it since I was a kid - forgot to say I am Romanian (not to understand that all Romanians eat/love it), and we have an excelent tripe soup, kind of a chowder, following somehow the notes from the Yugoslavian recipe above, no tomatoes, and finished with a lot of sourcream and some garlic .....which I guess makes me "The Girl Who Is Not Afraid To Order Tripe And In Fact It Makes Her Even Cooler And All The More Sexy Because She Enjoys It" - never thought this would make my day after too many gloomy days, in spite of living in LA. And love some Italian recipes for tripe, but did not have the chance to eat any really amazing tripe from asian cuisine, YET.
Before I go (it is hard to leave since I love beeing at you table so often, and I regret it is only virtual) kudos to you for your writing and for being here.

Anonymous said...

I would say its not your fault this dish came out so unatractive and unpleasant for you.

Tripe can be a delectable dish, however this Thomas Keller concoction lacks something.I confess I'm at a lost, knowing how good he is.There is no closure so far, if this is the whole recipe. I can't say, I don't have the book. Reading your post, this seems to be the initial preparation of many traditional French tripes dishes,like Le Tablier de Sapeur, a delicacy from Lyonn, France, made of pieces of tripe cut from the honeycomb part, dippen in beaten egg, and covered in breadcrumbs. They are then fried or grilled, and served pipping hot with snail butter, gribiche sauce, or tartar sauce. But the honeycomb tripe is first cooked in court-bouillon for several hours,and allowed to cool in the cooking liquid. Once drained, it should marinate for several hours in a good white wine, strong mustard, lemon juice and oil. Aside Tks perfectionism and ingenuosity, the method is pretty much the same as the classic Lyons Tablier de Sapeur, which btw,is delicious!

Lovely and intriguing blog. One of my faves.Thanks to be there.

Kyle/TheBookPolice said...

Yish. Menudo (honeycomb style, replete with a pig's foot soaking in the center) was the first dish I ate for my food oddity column here in Madison. I too wanted to be That Girl (made even harder by the, ahem, plumbing) but couldn't get past the 1/4 inch line near the top of the bowl.

I think I'll be sticking around for this blog.

Anonymous said...

Just read this entry. At first I was looking at the "stuff in the pot" photo and wondering why you had a white cotton kitchen towel in there under the veggies....

then I knew.

No thanks. Great blog, gross dish (not your fault).

Alicia said...

I love the dialog! So funny.

Also, the second picture of the tripe in the sauce pan appears like a towel! haha.

class factotum said...

They served us tripe for lunch one day during Peace Corps training in Chile. Most of us threw it in the trash. It was -- um -- terrific.

I have since learned how to say tripe in every way one can say it in Spanish -- huatitas, mondongo, tripas, menudo -- so I can be sure to avoid it. I never want to eat it again.

Anonymous said...

I love my mom's version of tripe (Taiwanese descendent here)...However she did not use the honeycomb tripe.

I have yet to experiment it myself. Sorry the dish...blew itself up on you...Try again with a different recipe?

Great read as usual

-Amy

Anonymous said...

I've always loved tripe many ways: Babbo, Pho, Dim Sum. All have been mentioned above. I've never cooked it myself though, but Bourdain describes it as "wet sheepdog smell", even though he loves it too. I will have to give this a go!

Anonymous said...

According to german Wikipedia for preparation tripe needs to be thoroughly cleaned, rid of all tallow, then watered for several hours and afterwards cooked in salt water for at least ten hours, depending on the age of the cow. After that you cook as per recipe. In southern Germany, where tripe or "Kutteln" in german is also eaten as a regional speciality, you could buy this prepared as described at assorted butcher shops. I suspect that you have used the unprepared version, and that won't work. Anyway, I personally have eaten tripe sausage in Southern France, and there was no particular bad smell, though I wasn't very impressed by the taste of it. So there's definitely a need to know what you're doing when you cook offal...

Matt said...

That faux-exchange between Ruhlman and Keller doesn't ooze bitterness at all. ;) Either way its freakin hilarious to actually picture thsi dialogue occurring.

My first experience with tripe was at cooking school in my bitchery class. A student had cooked it and it was literally like putting a rubber band in your mouth. But I choked that badboy down. Experience #2 was in a Pho restaurant in Chinatown and it was actually decent. I find the texture more off putting than the taste. Perhaps as it was mixed with tons of mint and bird chiles I couldn't really taste it.

Joseph said...

I had my first tripe stew last night and I must say that it was so fantastic that I'm still in awe the next day. A chef-friend cooked it, and there was no odor or foul taste.

Anonymous said...

I've had tripe..and I wasn't impressed...until I married my Moroccan husband. Moroccans really know their spices...they even made the tripe look appetizing. I know that they do clean it well....they let it soak in boiling water, salt, lemon and vinegar prior to cooking..then they cut it into bite size pieces...sautee it with onions, cilantro, parsley in olive oil...add some fresh lemon juice...paprika, pepper, salt...there's one other spice that has escaped my mind...but then they add hot water...just enough to cover it...let it simmer for about 1 1/2 hour...add carrots...moroccan preserved lemons and green olives...simmer about 1 more hour...then eat with hot french bread...it was actually very tasty. I was surprised.

Anonymous said...

Tripe is normally an excellent dish--it was one of my most favorite foods when I was a child--so I think your main problem was that you forgot scald the tripe prior to cooking it.

You could wash it with water for as long as you wanted to, but it wouldn't remove the less-than-tasty things soaked into the tripe while the animal was alive (or dead, for that matter). Scalding allows those nasty liquids to escape, and should remove any foul odor or taste that one might encounter while cooking tripe--as in this case.

Cleaned properly, well-prepared tripe is absolutely heavenly. I would highly recommend trying again if you're brave enough. And if not, I would suggest asking someone who knows how to cook it well to show you.