Jellied Tripe

I know there is a general mistrust of tripe; interestingly enough, this dish has produced most tripe converts.  It does have a seductive nature of looking like summer on a plate, but it’s not just good looks that recommend it-it is delicious.

I had wanted to post this for Wednesday, but life got flipped-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how a three year old kid ended up liking this dish.

First off, I gathered the required ingredients, which included Calvados.  I’d never tried, or for that matter even heard of Calvados before flipping to page 40 of “The Cookbook”.  Turns out that it’s a fancy apple brandy made in the French regions of Basse-Normandie and Lower Normandy.  Not wanting to skimp, I picked up a brand called La Captive, which features a fully grown apple in the bottle.

See?  Always wanted to own one of these, if only for the novelty.  I’m telling myself that because I’d rather not think about all the brandy that could be filling the space that the apple takes up.

Into the pot went a few pig trotters, heads of garlic, some thyme, bay leaves, two quarts(!) of apple cider and some of the aforementioned Calvados.  Up to a boil, then down to a simmer for a little over two hours.

At this point I added a whole bunch of honeycomb tripe that I had sat overnight in milk.  The soaking removes a bit of the “unique”… flavor that tripe inherently touts.  You can see that the flesh of the trotters had started to fall off the bone, and cider and brandy changed from transparent to opaque. I’m assuming the new cloudiness was due to all of the tasty fat and connective tissue incorporating itself into the liquid.

In past cooking sessions with tripe, I’ve had problems with managing to get it tender enough.  For some reason I never cook it long enough, and I wasn’t going to make that mistake this time.  Mr. Henderson states that one should be able to pinch through the flesh, so that’s what we were shooting for.  In the end the tripe cooked three hours longer than the recipe called for.

After the extended cooking time I was easily able to pinch through the squares of stomach.  For once, I was actually going to have tender tripe.  Hooray!

The recipe notified me that the tasty liquor left in the pot was in need of reduction for use later on, so everything was dumped into a colander over a bowl…

…with this being the result.  Lots of little bits of bone and other inedible things were left behind…

…so another strain was called for.  Back into the pot the liquor went for a gentle reduction.

In the meantime, I picked all–or so I thought–of the piggy bones out of the tripe/trotter flesh mixture.  Just a heads up if you try to make this recipe: triple check that all of the toe bones have been found.  I’ll explain why later on.

While I was playing the home version of Double Dare with pig bones on one side of the kitchen, at the other end I set up a pan with shallots, carrots, leeks and some garlic to sweat in duck fat until everything was nice and soft.

From there, a few canned plum tomatoes were crushed and added to the veggies.  Everything was left over heat for another 20 minutes to “sweeten the tomatoes.”  Soon after the tripe/trotter mix was incorporated along with a little of the reduced liquor and a copious amount of salt and pepper.  I fretted for about 15 minutes over the seasoning due to the fact this dish is served cold, and the flavors in turn are muted because of it.  The only fix is “over” seasoning, and I’ve not made the recipe enough to know the proper amounts of needed salt and pepper.  When all was said and done, I had used roughly twice the normal amount of both.

A loaf pan was covered with plastic wrap, and the tripe mixture was spooned in.  When the pan was full, I slowly drizzled the reduced liquid on top to fill in the empty spaces.  A quick slam against the counter ensured that all of the unwanted air was expelled.  Another sheet of plastic wrap was draped over the top of the pan and into the fridge it went over night.

The next day was pretty exciting, because I had been invited to take part in the first meeting of the Austin Adventure Eaters, hosted by the award winning and Energizer Bunny-like Jennie Chen and the Executive Chef of Kenichi in downtown Austin, Mark Strouhal.  While my new puppy sure made an impression on the attending folks, I welcomed the chance to talk to like-minded foodies and partake of their offerings.  Pig tongues preserved in bacon fat, deep fried pig ears, bacon filled pastries, and a wonderful deer heart and liver dish that defies description were just some of the dishes on hand.  I’d like to thank Jenni and John Knox for their hospitality and alcohol. I’d also like to thank Mark and another chef named Dre (I’m sorry I never caught your last name) who works at Zoot in Austin for all of the mind blowing conversation.  I could have listened for hours and hours.

Halfway through the event I started slicing the terrine for people to try.  I took a little piece myself to check the seasoning.  To my dismay, it was a little bland.  Even after doubling the seasoning and all my fretting, it wasn’t enough.  Thankfully everyone was kind in their criticisms.  Before I left, I ended up leaving huge hunks of the terrine for people to take home.  The best part?  I got a tweet from Amanda Joyner, one of the owners and chefs behind Retro Bizzaro Pastries here in Austin.  It said, “@nose2tailathome I got a croissant put the left overs I had from you on it with a little mixed greens. IT was so yummy” which prompted me to ask how the sandwich turned out.  Amanda responded with, “I loved it! The flavor was amazing not at all what I was expecting even our kids liked it :)”

Whoa.  Their kids liked it?!

I had to know more, so I asked Amanda to write a quick blurb about what happened.  She sent me this in return.  Thank you Amanda!

When you go to a dinner party and someone says “I brought some tripe!” You usually have the few people who turns and do the awkward “Oooh….How..Nice.”

I however am a firm believer in don’t knock it till you try it, my new years resolution.  After a few minutes of pushing food around on my plate I got up and grabbed myself a decent piece, closed my eyes, and…enjoyed it.

Growing up I always had this odd fear of tripe. Menudo being made was the warning bell to spend the night at someone’s house.  This however was nothing like what I was expecting.  The texture reminded me of a bread pudding, aldente even, a smooth softness with a hints of yummy goodness with a flavor I can’t even describe without saying one word…YUM.

The next day I decided to eat more of the tripe for lunch.  Toasting up a croissant, in bacon grease of course, I laid my new friend down with some spring greens and started munching away.

Now when I eat that means little warning bells go off in my sons mind and he comes to steal my lunch.  In my mind I saw him instantly disliking the sandwich and running away screaming to my husband I feed him something gross but instead…He ran off with it!  My son…likes tripe?!  Wanting to know what intrigued him so I sat down with him and asked why he liked it.  His reply “I like jello….It’s meat jello right?”

Sure tripe’s not for everyone, but as I have found it’s not about the meat, but how it’s prepared.  Try it once and if you don’t like it….well just have water near by.

So, here’s the tripe dish that a three year old liked.  I think that pretty much sums up how successful this recipe is.

Now to tie up the loose thread about the pig bones.  After taking the above picture, I dug into the slice of terrine only to crunch down on a tiny yet very hard toe bone.  Had I bitten down any harder, a visit to the dentist would have been required.  So, again I implore you: triple check that ALL of the bones are removed before you add the tripe and trotter mixture into the sweated vegetables.  I ended up checking with as many people as I could from the event that took terrine slices home, and I was the only one affected, thankfully.  Next time, I’ll triple check, just to be sure.

One down, sixty to go.

Brawn (Headcheese)

A splendid dish, a slowly cooked pig’s head, the flesh pulled from the skull and set in its own jelly; sliced thinly, a fine lunch.  You can use the pig’s ears to make the Sorrel, Chicory, and Crispy Ear Salad (page 43), which is an ideal accompaniment.

I’ve been putting this update off for a little while.  So why stop procrastinating now?

Reader Christopher Pepe shot me an e-mail:

So I’ve been following your site for a while and recently picked up The
Whole Beast.  This weekend we had a little party celebrating the less
celebrated parts of animals and I made a few things from the cookbook.  I
thought you might be interested in seeing it.

Corned Tongue (reubens)


Bath Chaps


Stuffed Trotters

Prep pics (some ‘graphic’) are the last pictures here.

I also made the Tripe and Onions but don’t have a finished picture online
yet since it took a lot longer to cook than I expected.  Looking forward to
your next culinary adventure.

I think Christopher did a fantastic job, and on top of that, he found some willing dinner guests!  Color me impressed.  Now, for my own attempt at making brawn.

I’m not exactly sure why, but at various points in the year my local megamart stocks frozen hogs heads for only eight dollars.  They remove most of the hair from the head and clean them very well.  I picked up two they were so cheap.  This fella was so big he just barely fit into my stock pot.

The usual stock vegetables and herbs were added to the pot, along with the zest of a few lemons, a healthy splash of red wine vinegar, and …

… some pig trotters!  The extra fat and collagen will help later to make the stock liquor set.

I brought the water to a boil, then reduced the heat to a gentle simmer and left it that way for a couple of hours.  Eventually the flesh began pulling away from the skull, which meant the head had finished cooking. Public service notice for those of you attempting to make your own brawn:  The stock will be INCREDIBLY HOT. So don’t scald yourself like I did while you fish the hog head and trotters out of the pot.

Once I got done yelling and running around the kitchen holding my hands, I removed the vegetables and herbs from the stock, strained it and seasoned it with salt.  The stock went back onto the burner to reduce down and intensify the gelatin content.

As the stock reduced, I picked through the trotters and flesh for meat and peeled the tongue.  I’d like to take a moment to mention that in the recipe, Mr. Henderson instructs us to go about “picking flesh”.  I took that to just mean the meat, not the skin and the fat.  Oh, what a mistake that was.  You’ll see what I mean shortly.

Thinking that I was on course, I lined a loaf pan with saran wrap, filled it with the meat bits I had found and then poured in just enough stock.  I picked up and slammed the loaf pan on the counter top a few times to force any trapped air bubbles out.  The pan was then placed in the fridge to set.

Well, it looks like headcheese, right?  Various random meat shapes all floating in a gelatinous environment.  There was only two problems:

One, the chunks of meat were too big, so when I tried to make a cut, whole pieces of meat would just rip right out of the gelatin, still attached to the knife.  That brings up the second point, the stock had not been reduced down enough, so the gelatin was very weak.  This is what I’d call a complete failure.

I ended up hitting the internet for more information on how to make brawn.  While there isn’t exactly a bevy of headcheese info out there on the ‘tubes, I gleaned enough from the few links I did find to set me back on track.  With the help of my lovely, understanding wife, we began tearing apart the loaf of failcheese and reworking it.  All of the gelatin was placed back into a pot for reducing, including the left over stock I had saved.  I had also saved all of the skin and fat from the hog head for use in other things, so that too was revisited.  As my wife removed the flesh from the pig trotters, I began chopping it and the fat and meat into much smaller chunks.

Our efforts were not in vain, as attempt 2.0 looked much more like the pictures of brawn I found on the internet.  I can confirm that this version was indeed sliceable, and the gelatin held firm.

Never having eaten brawn before, I was expecting something transcendent.  Pig meat with little nuggets of fat here and there should be right up my alley.  For whatever reason, it’s just not to my liking.  Oh, everything tasted just fine; I had added enough salt, so seasoning wasn’t an issue.  It was the texture that threw me for a loop.  Add that to the realization that I’d much rather make Pig’s Cheek and Tongue (which I did with the other hogs head I bought) and brawn loses it’s luster.  Maybe I’ll give it a go again later on.

One down, eighty eight to go.

Duck Hearts On Toast

The perfect snack for the cook who has just prepared five ducks.  The hearts have an amazing ducky quality.

My wife and I had been on the lookout for duck hearts for months with just no luck.  We figured that our Asian market, where we regularly pick up fresh duck legs, would eventually come through.

Boy, did they ever!  Mr. Henderson mentions in the ingredient list that five hearts are fine, but that in an ideal world to use as many as one could muster up.  My wife actually called me when she found them, knowing that I’d be excited with just a few.  I believe that I  jumped up and down when she informed me that she had more than thirty!

After I had gotten over my initial shock and jubilation, I put a cast iron skillet over a high flame with a big knob of butter and all of the duck hearts.  I let the butter melt completely and rolled the hearts around in it for a few minutes.

Next up was a big splash of balsamic vinegar, followed by some duck stock and salt and pepper.  This was another one of those “letting the ingredients get to know each other” moments, so I left them to their own devices for a few moments before removing the hearts and reducing the sauce.

Now, I already know what people are going to say:  That looks boring!  It’s drab and brown and unappealing!  You won’t get any arguments from me on the aesthetics of this dish.  I mean, Mr. Henderson even mentions in the description that this is the perfect snack for a cook in the kitchen.  From everything I’ve seen in a kitchen, cooks just don’t worry about the extra little garnishes when they’re working on their own food.  I decided to keep it as close to what you would find on a cooks plate as I could.

Duck hearts do in fact have a very ducky taste to them. I have found that this also is true to chicken hearts, as they taste strongly of chicken.  I suppose this phenomena happens with the hearts from all animals.  The balsamic stock sauce was nice and rich,  with a slightly tangy and sweet flavor.

Duck hearts, folks!  They aren’t just for prep cooks any more!

One down, ninety one to go.

Roast Bone Marrow And Parsley Salad

This is the one dish that does not change on the menu at St. John.  The marrowbone comes from a calf’s leg; ask your butcher to keep some for you.  You will need teaspoons or long thin implements to scrape your marrow out of the bone at the table.

Do you recall eating Raisin Bran for breakfast?  The raisin-to-bran-flake ratio was always a huge anxiety, to a point, sometimes, that one was tempted to add extra raisins, which inevitably resulted in too many raisins, and one lost that pleasure of discovering the occasional sweet chewiness in contrast to the branny crunch.  When administering such things as capers, it is very good to remember Raisin Bran.

I wanted to post a quick link to my friend Laura William’s foodie/cartoon/artistic/blog.  I think I could add a few more descriptive words, but I suppose you’ve already gotten the gist.  She’s just as crazy about food as I am, if not more.  Now that I think about it, I’d go with more.  Here’s a link to her Flickr page to prove my point. I’m hoping to have her help me with some of the dessert recipes from the cookbook in the future.  I’m going to need her expertise with pastries to make up for my sad lack of ability.

So, here we are–Anthony Bourdain’s death row meal.  I had actively been looking for marrow bones to make this recipe for quite a while now.  I should have been paying attention the multiple times I walked through the Asian market, because sure enough, they have big bags of beef bones for purchase.

What I needed to do to the bone marrow can be summed up in a haiku:

marrow on the pan
into a nice hot oven
crusty top means done

Okay, that’s not a very good haiku.  I won’t inflict that on you again, I promise, but it is accurate.  After twenty minutes in the oven all of the bone segments had nice crusty tops.  Mr. Henderson mentions that if the marrow is left in the oven too long, it can all melt away, which made me peek in the oven pretty much every 3 minutes.

In between peeks, I made a quick salad of parsley leaves, very thin sliced shallots, and capers.  Keeping to the Raisin Bran advice above, I made sure to use the capers sparingly.  Right before I served the marrow, I added a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing.

With some toasted bread, the dish was finished.  I’ll let Mr. Henderson explain the eating process.

My approach is to scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast and season with coarse sea salt.  Then a pinch of parsley salad on top of this and eat.

The first bite after following these instructions was just…  wow.  Fatty, salty, briney, peppery goodness all on a piece of toast.  This is supposed to be a starter, right?  Well, it ended up being dinner instead.  A very large dinner.  We used a half a loaf of french bread.  And all of the marrow.

Don’t judge me.

One down, ninety three to go.

Celery Salt And Boiled Eggs

This recipe was so simple, I almost feel like I’m cheating on this update. I have an excuse though: my puppy was “fixed” this week, so I’ve been a bit too preoccupied to jump into a complicated dish.

My wife is terribly allergic to celery, so I don’t cook with it very often. Celery root actually contains more allergen than the stalk, so using it has been pretty much right out. I’m happy to finally be able to work with it though after seeing the chefs on various TV shows use it to great effect. I was thrown at first when I looked at the recipe. I had never heard of “celeriac” before. Thankfully a quick Google search informed me that over in France and the UK, celeriac is what they call celery root.

I tried to use a peeler to remove the tough outer skin, but the root was so oddly shaped I ended up just cutting most of the skin off with a knife.

Once peeled, I needed to grate the entire root finely. While I was grating, the pungent smell of celery slowly gave way to a very sweet, almost coconut-like scent. The coconut flavor also came through slightly in the final product.

Fifteen minutes later I had a tired hand and a bowl full of grated celery root. I measured out the needed amount of coarse sea salt and combined the two …

… like so. I then left the bag to sit in the fridge for two days so that the celery root and salt could “get to know each other.”

48 hours later I spread the mixture on a half sheet pan and placed it in an oven set on low to dry it out.

Many hours later I had big crusty chunks of salty celery root.

After a quick whiz in a food processor I had powdery celery salt.

I soft boiled a couple of free range eggs to finish the recipe.

Despite the simplicity of everything done in this update, there is something wonderful about making your own celery salt. Kept in an airtight container it’ll last for quite a while, and using the recipe in the book left me with a little under two cups of salt. I’ll probably still have some two years down the road, that is if I don’t stop using it every morning on soft boiled eggs. The combination of the two is just so tasty that I’ve boiled about eight eggs so far. The celery salt has not only the grassy and pungent tones usually associated with celery, but there are subtle sweet and nutty flavors in the mix as well as the obvious salty one.

One down, one hundred and twenty seven to go.