Today, checking out at the grocery store, the cashier rang up the tripe I had bought for this recipe, and she said, “What is this?” My fiancé replied, “Tripe.” “Yes, but—but what is it?” she persisted. Very kindly, my fiancé told her that it is the stomach lining of, say, a cow or an ox, and that it’s common in both French and Asian cooking. The cashier didn’t say it, but really, her question hadn’t so much been what as, Dear God, why? In fact, her reaction to his explanation that we were going to do a lyonnaise take by simmering it in fat and serving it with parsley, while polite, basically telegraphed her opinion that what he was saying was a load of tripe—nonsense.
Poor, maligned tripe. The word has become synonymous with rubbish. The meat is apparently purchased so rarely in the store that even the cashiers aren’t sure what they’re looking at, but will look upon it disgust and doubt your assurances that it is indeed food. Even though it is, as my fiancé mentioned, a staple of so many dishes across the globe. It’s featured in Vietnamese pho, Filipino kare-kare, Mexican menudo. In Lyon, considered one of the culinary capitals of France, tripe is a favorite dish in the down to earth bistros known as bouchons. But here in America, we write “survival” guides for those who would dare cross the threshold of a bouchon, and there are full blog entries comparing the smell of tripe to the odor of old people, bad politicians’ breath, and sewage treatment plants. (It smells nothing like any of those things—it should have a neutral scent, and it simply takes on the aroma of whatever it’s cooked with. If it smells, there’s a problem with the freshness or the cleanliness of the tripe.) It’s exactly this kind of reaction that I hope to eventually help change. Because let me tell you, tripe is food. It’s good food, if you handle it right.
Gras double, or tripe lyonnaise, is a staple in bouchons. The name gras double describes the method of cooking it in two helpings of fat, which not only makes the tripe tender while still slightly chewy (about the same texture as really good calamari) but also gives it a subtle richness. They’re like luscious little toothsome noodles. Have it the way it would be served in a bouchon—with a glass of beaujolais, nothing too fancy, and some good conversation.
About 1 cup of animal fat (preferably duck), divided
6 finely chopped shallots
½ cup dry white wine, plus more for deglazing
2 lbs tripe, thoroughly cleaned, dried, sliced into strips about 1”x2,” tossed with salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP herbes fondamentales
¼ cup champagne vinegar
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh tarragon, chopped, to garnish
Melt half the fat in a large Dutch oven over just below medium heat, add the shallots, add some salt to them, and cook until soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Deglaze with a splash of the white wine.
Lower to a bare simmer, stir in the rest of the fat and wine, the tripe, the seasonings, and the vinegar; cover and cook for 2 hours, or until fork-tender, making sure it remains at the barest simmer possible. If you’re working with a tripe other than honeycomb, you may need to simmer it for as much as three hours to get it tender.
Pour the tripe into a large strainer to drain off any excess liquid, then replace in the Dutch oven. Stir in the chopped parsley and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve hot, garnished with extra parsley and the tarragon.
The dish pairs well with watercress dressed in a vinaigrette of olive oil, Dijon mustard, and white (or champagne) vinegar, which gives some levity to the meal and cuts the richness of the tripe.