It takes guts to eat guts.
Many people frown upon, or worse, the idea of eating an animal’s innards. In my family we would occasionally eat liver or blood sausage but that was the limit. Heart, brain, kidney, stomach or tripes were at best for the dog.
Just to say that I am not a born amateur of offal. (Which derives from the Dutch/Germanic word afval, Abfall for waste)
However, I have an open mind, and mouth, and have not often come to regret the experience.
The split goat head in a restaurant in New York during a study tour was perhaps the low point. Not that I have tried everything yet, such as heart or brain, but I have learned to appreciate kidneys, tongue and sweetbread.
Tripes and andouillettes remained a bit of a challenge. When I returned to live in France for a second time, I got the hang of andouillettes (chitterlings) with mustard sauce which can be great when done well and sometimes a big rubbery disappointment.
We regularly take a Vietnamese soup, called Phỗ, in Paris and in the authentic version, the not-sanitised for Westerners version, there are bits of tripe floating in the bowl of soup. I have eaten that, it did not have much of a taste but it had a ‘chewy’ bite which was not unpleasant.
So when I was seated for lunch at a restaurant in Rouen, La Toque d’Or, which had tripe as the day’s special, and since I was not too tempted by the other less adventurous choices, I decided to give it a try. There was plenty of wine around to clean the mouth if needed.
When it arrived, it did not look like the plates of tripe I had seen served to other guests in different places that had looked like a stew. This was a pan of stock with meat, the tripe, and some vegetables and it was rather good.
Back home, I did some research and found that the stew-like tripes are often called Tripes à la mode de Caen and include tomatoes cooked to a sauce.
Other ingredients are local cider and calvados, as well as pork rind.
Perhaps the restaurant had been a bit too generous with the stock to hide their parsimony with the meat. In any case, I liked the result. So I wanted to create a version that combined the best of Caen, and the restaurant in Rouen.
Both are in Normandy which is well-known for cider, calvados as well as cheeses (camembert to name just one), cream and rain. The rain is good for the apple trees and the grass. The cows eat the grass that is good for the milk and the cream and the butter. The apples are used in apple tarts and what they cannot sell or eat is used to make cider and distilled to calvados.
Normandy is called after the Normans, the Vikings who raided the big and rich towns and cities along the Seine, including Paris. In 911, French king Charles the Simple gave the region around Rouen to Viking lord Rollon so that he could defend that area and the rest of the Seine river from further invasions by his compatriots. Rollon founded the duchy of Normandy. It is from there that one of his offspring, William the Conqueror, invaded England. What runs in the family… Anyway, you can still see more tall, red-headed or blonde people in
Normandy than in more southern regions of France.
Back to the tripes. It takes patience to prepare it. Fresh tripes need to be cooked some 12 hours. You buy ‘grass double’ which is the stomach lining, cut it up, blanche it (put in boiling water for a while until the water boils again, to kill bacteria and remove remaining impurities) and then cook for many hours.
The market’s ‘tripier’ – a butcher specialised in innards – had half-prepared grass double in a kind of rectangular bloc from which he cut the required amount. The bloc was made of tripes set in gelatine.
I made a stock of veal from a foot and some ribs and herbs. I did not use pork rind (couenne).
Tripes are an excellent source of protein and they are low in fat, so they can be used in a slimming diet. I left out the rind because it contains fat. The taste of this dish comes mainly from the stock, vegetables and cider.
Ingredients (for six)
- Two kilos of tripes
- One calf’s foot
- Four onions
- Six carrots
- Six potatoes
- Mixed herbs
- Two bottles of cider
- Two glasses of calvados
- Bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- Two fennel bulbs
- One litre of veal stock (see above)
- Optional – fresh carrots, small onions, cubes of ham or bacon
- Peel the onions and slice them up, clean the carrots and cut into rounds. Clean and slice the fennel.
- Cut the tripes to thin slices. If you are using blanched grass double, cut into small squares.
- Preheat an oven to 150 °C.
- In a large pan, like an oval Le Creuset Doufeu, make a layer of onions. Put the tripes on top, then add the fennel and carrots.
- Cut the calf’s foot lengthwise in two (or more) parts and put on top of the fennel and carrots. Add a bottle of cider and the two glasses of calvados, add the mixed herbs and some salt and pepper. The tripes need to be well under the liquid, add water if needed.
- Put on the heat and allow the contents of the pan to come to the boil.
- Cover the pan tightly with a lid and put in the oven for six hours.
- Check the level of the liquid from time to time, add water if needed.
- If you used blanched grass double, you need to cook two times six hours.
- After that time, you can let it stand overnight.
- Remove the calf’s foot (you can return some of its meat of you like) and the herbs and any bits of blackened gelatine that has stuck to the lid or the sides. (You could remove the onion, carrots and fennel here if you want to add fresh vegetables later with the potatoes)
- Add the veal stock and further cider to raise the level of liquid in the pan; here we want a great deal of stock to go with the tripes, not a tripe stew.
- Peel and cut the potatoes and add to the pan. Add, if wanted, some fresh carrots (cut to two centimetres), celery, small onions, even bits of ham or bacon.
- Cook for 30 minutes and serve in a soup tureen. It keeps in the fridge for a few days and longer in the freezer. I added red beans with a later serving.