Archives for posts with tag: offal

Doing foodie research lately into the influence of Edward Espe Brown and the San Francisco Zen Center (Tassajara cookbooks, Green Gulch Farm, Greens restaurant) on Alice Waters and the food revolution. Right now tracing the ancestry of recipes, to see the bloodlines, has me confecting one myself.

Offal is one of the great healthful and inexpensive meats. On today’s march, I am going to be cooking me a potful of tripe a la Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters’ second influential chef (the first being Jeremiah Tower).

Bertolli’s recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking is the best ever tripe recipe, after Jane Grigson’s in Good Things, Bertolli’s in a long-simmered minimalist tomato sauce, to offset what tripe does to a sauce, and Grigson’s French dish, Tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux, baked for hours with a bucket of shallots, carrots, prunes, thyme and butter, one of God’s gifts to the world. Yum. O.

Good Things, for its adventurous but unpretentious palate, its arrangement by chapters of Grigson’s favorite ingredients — Prunes, Carrots, Celery — is, I think I am now after 30 years prepared to assert, the best cook book of all time. A protege of Elizabeth David, who revolutionized British cooking in the early 1950s, when food was still rationed, Grigson was also a translator and the wife of the poet Geoffrey Grigson.

Jane Grigson, with the publication of English Food in 1974 set off the heirloom growers, locavore movement in Britain. In one of my favorite blogs, Neil Cooks Grigson, a young PhD. postgrad is doughtily cooking his way through English Food.

Jane Grigson, food hero.

But there are few sustained contemplations of pork neck bones. Not precisely offal but deeply inspiring and very cheap. Googling, I find mostly Kentucky mountain folks longing for home with their recipes for pork neck bones and poke sallit. Delicious, I have no doubt. In her early and authoritative The Art of Charcuterie, Grigson has a whole chapter called “Extremities”, with at least three recipes apiece for ears, tails, brains, tongues, heads, and feets of pork. But no neck bones.

But me, I am thinking, come fall and cooler weather, of browning them in the oven. Then making a Shanghai beef noodle flavor broth, with wine, soy sauce, star anise, fresh  ginger, scallions, orange peel. Then strain, defatten, pick off the meat, and serving boiling hot over cooked noodles, sliced kielbasa, cilantro, scallions, sizzled brown garlic slices, garnished with those outrageous pickled mustard greens. Bones to the dog nieces next door, Olivia and Maisie.

Mmmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm.

Once upon a time, when I was running away from home, I worked as a kitchen wench for some rich hippies who ran a hotel restaurant, and also an organic farm. The restaurant served their meat. They were incredibly sanctimonious about “whole animal” cooking. I spent a lot of time making pates and charcuterie. All my sausage recipes are spattered with — mmmm. Let’s just call it sausage. There’s nothing I don’t know about rinsing chitlins and sliding them on to the sausage funnel. I once spent three days re-inventing the hot dog. It was delicious, and, including my labor, worth about $59.00 a pound. The secret is cardamom and pork liver.

What their “whole animal” philosophy did not include was tripe. Which is a shame. Because, as you know, what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, what makes the Latino salsa so smoothly, without any movement from the waist up, what makes the French peasant the wiriest little fucker on the planet who will whup the ass of any and all Eurocrats, past, present, and future, is tripe.



Tripes a la mode de Caen.

One of the great things about Macondo is the supermercado, where I recently bought nearly three pounds of honeycomb tripe for $6.75. One of the things about cutting up meat in a restaurant kitchen is that every meat cutter hits a wall, whereby the living animal whose meat you’re mincing reproaches you and makes you consider veganism for real. Sometimes the animal actually is living, like crabs and lobsters, and sometimes his entire body is all too apprehensible, like chickens and rabbits. There are things each meat cutter simply cannot bring himself to do. I made a swap with my buddy. I’d cut up the rabbits if he’d skin the eels. Each out of sight of the other. Then there was James the baker, to whom we all had to suck up because there was only one powerful Hobart kitchen mixer, complete with meat grinding attachment, and James had full control of it for pastry from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. There could be no “whole animal” meat cutting until after 3 p.m., by which time you were half dead from the lunch service. Long story short, you got a lot of sausage meat squirted in your eye, since the meat grinder was high above the mixing bowl, at eye level.

You attach the sausage funnel to the black valve, top left.

As much fun as that was, they bought their “sausage casings” already salted and coiled in plastic tubs, and were complete dilettantes about the “whole animal” concept. There would be no andouilletes, the French sausage which is basically chitlin’-stuffed chitlin’s, and very fine it is. Nor haggis, which is oatmeal-stuffed tripe braised and sliced. Nor menudo, which is finely chopped tripe braised with calf’s foot, chile ancho and hominy. Nor a la mode de Caen, which is oven braised for eight hours in a special small-mouthed marmite, with carrots, thyme and a touch of apple brandy. Larousse has fourteen recipes for tripe, which shows you just how wiry the French are. As for the seven recipes for lamb animelles, well, stone soup doesn’t even begin to tell the story. My mother used to make special trips to the Florida Avenue Grill, the venerable Howard University diner, for what they were calling “creamed eggs”. And ‘licious they were.

So, mindful of the coming depression, I am dusting off my offal recipes. There are three great ones for tripe. I am cooking, as we speak, a large pot of Paul Bertolli’s Italian granny tomato garlic tripe. The rest I cut up into tiny cubes for Philadelphia pepper pot soup, and if there’s enough left over, for Jane Grigson’s awesome long-simmered tripe, carrots, shallots and prunes,  tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux. This is from Good Things, which I decided the other day, in thinking of the best cookbook of all time to give a starting cook, is the best cookbook of all time. For no showing-off food, for homecooking which juxtaposes in ways new to me humble ingredients like walnuts and onions (Burgundian bread) and carrots and prunes (the aforementioned tripe), for solid technique, scholarship, fabulous palate and real working woman conviviality, nobody is better than Jane. And, you don’t have to eat the tripe. She has heavenly recipes for celery, too.

I also want to look at Jocasta Innes’ Pauper’s Cookbook and see what kind of offal she’s got cooking (tongue, brains, heart, head, oxtail, liver, kidney). Fergus Henderson, so very chic, is a “whole animal” sanctimone, who has got some great recipes for brains, sweetbreads, spleen, blood, a serious effin’ haggis, but pales, as so many of these meat-eatin’, bone-crackin’, marrow-suckin’ macho men do, at the merest whisper of ears, tails and….shhhhhh.

Brains is the one I can’t do. Ha ha.
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