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Archive for March, 2011

‘a much larger and hungrier clientele  was made up of the blue-collar workers, les canuts, who earned bread in the textile industry and as packers in the warehouses.  They found meres of their own, who cooked for them with the same dedication, but with less costly ingredients, and for less money. They used the meat the fine folk disdained, such as the entrails and the tougher undercuts of beef and veal. But above all, they used a lot of pork, as well was fish such as carp, and eels, which they combined with onions, butter, cream, and generous amounts of wine. This was the beginning of the cuisine of the bistros, bouchons et porte-pots, which became typical of Lyon’ -Culinary France, Andre Domine, Editor

Spring just sprung a few days ago (officially, that is). But here in San Francisco winter was more springlike, and the past few weeks have been more rainy, windy, stormy, coldy, and wintry than ever. Reading one of my many cookbooks as I am wont to do one dark, wet, Sunday, I came across the above passage in my hard-bound copy of Culinaria France that describes the bouchon culture of Lyons. Coffee table books like Provence, The Beautiful Cookbook rarely do anything for me. I consider myself a serious cook, and big, oversized food books that sit on a coffee table always seemed to be a bit too generic for me – heavy on the full page photos, light on substance or point of view. The Culinaria series is different to me. Essential really. A great deal of detail about the regions, traditional dishes, wine, and culture accompany well conceived recipes despite its large hard-bound coffee table format. There are several editions, Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, even the good ole US of A. A bouchon, I should mention is the Lyonaisse version of a bistro, and a bistro for those who may not know is a type of simple restaurant which serves hearty, straightforward food, generally in large quantities, and often at all hours of the day or night. In Paris, a bistro might serve steak frites, duck confit, lamb with white beans, sweetbreads in chablis, and knuckle of veal. French charcuterie is always available and pate, terrine, saucisson or delicious little crock of goose rillettes are easily found. The bouchons of Lyons differ from their Parisian cousins in that their menus are even more simple, and often based around offal, or the off-cuts of veal, pork, lamb, and beef.

I myself travelled to Lyon on one of my trips to Europe, and there I and my travelling companion found ourselves seated at a bouchon called Cafe des Federations, no better example of the cuisine of the city could be found. Tripe (stewed in onions and white wine), blood sausage (grilled to a crisp and served with duck-fat-sauteed apples), andouillette sausages (never ever seen in the U.S., andouillettes are sausages made from the intestines of pork and/or veal, grilled and served with a mustard cream sauce, their aroma is INTENSE), casseroles of both veal and lamb’s trotters, sabodet (a hearty sausage made from the head, skin, tongue of a pig), not to mention veal in many guises (as sweetbreads, tete de veau, tendron and blanquette). A bouchon virgin, I shied away from everything offered until I realized that here I must let my stateside inhibitions go and just trust that whatever was coming would be done well. And so, after starter platters of saucisson rosette de Lyon, a bistro salad with big chunks of salty bacon and poached eggs, I found myself confronted by a pretty little cocotte filled to the brim with white wine stewed tripe. Mildly beefy but also with an intensity of flavor only offal can muster, the texture was not slimy and insipid as I had assumed, but tender and firm to the tooth not unlike well cooked calamari. Thus my fascination with offal began.

Flash forward to this rainy stormy Sunday, I am snuggled in with my partner for the rest of the day, and I have tripe on my mind for a nice warming supper. My menu was as follows:

  • Tempura of Oysters, Red Bell Peppers & Japanese Eggplant with Ailoi
  • Simple Salad with a puckery vinaigrette and pancetta
  • Stewed Tripe with White Wine

This tripe dish is a version of Marcella Hazan’s Honycomb Tripe with Parmesan Cheese that appears in her highly recommended Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. My gathered

ingredients include for a mir poix (diced carrots, onions, and celery), herbes de provence, chili pepper flakes, salt, olive oil, and white wine.

First I sweat the onions over low heat in the olive oil.  I don’t want any caramelization here. Just a nice slow, low heat, sweat. Caramelized onions will make the end result way to dark and dusky.

After the onions have softened, in go the diced carrots and celery. In all, the onions sweat for about 10 minutes on low heat, then the carrots and celery are added for another 10.

Time for the herbs de provence, a little garlic, and freshly chopped parsley to join the fun.

In goes the tripe. I probably should have discussed the tripe in more detail before reaching this point in the process, so let me elaborate. First, I got the tripe from my trusty Asian meat market

on Mission street. Unlike the past, tripe these days comes already washed and ready to cook. I always blanch mine in boiling water to rid it of impurities, doing so makes a cleaner, less murky stew.

Add your fresh, blanched tripe that has been cut up in to thin strips to your aromatics, add wine, stock and tomatoes and simmer for several hours until most of the liquid has dissipated.

I seem to not have any fresh tripes to show you, so say hi to a whale I met on vacation recently instead!

Actually a family of whales…

The finished trip can be served in a platter and showered with the best parmesan you can lay your hands on prior to serving.

Greenleaf lettuce, a quickly whisked vinaigrette, and some pancetta are assembled into a salad. Fancier salads with watercress, oakleaf, butter, and escarole leaves, and luscious vinaigrettes composed of snappy vinigars (like champange or sherry),

flavorful oils (like walnut, hazelnut or premium first-press extra virgin olive oils), and irresistible garnishes (premium cheese, home-cured salt pork) will be the subject of a forthcoming post here on devour. For now this is a simple sunday supper salad

I had some red bell peppers, japanese eggplant and some jarred oysters in the fridge. These will make a nice little fry as a first coarse. I make my own batter by putting a cup of flour in a bowl, a teaspoon of salt, and enough sparkling mineral water to get the consistency I want. Purists would say you need to shuck the freshest oysters you got from a very good source, and I agree. But again, we’ll get all fancy another time!

I fry in a heavy bottomed pot filled with canola oil to the depth of about an inch. Oil expands a lot once its hot so that plenty. I use a thermometer to heat my oil to around 360 degrees. Anything above 400 degrees F is a fire hazzard and I never go that high.

Sorry to say, my batter was crispy and light, oh so light you can barely see it here in the photo. Trust me, its there. We started with our little oyster, pepper and eggplant fry dipped in a little mayo like aioli.

Next came the salad: shallot vinaigrette, and a few slices of pancetta on top. Lots of freshly cracked pepper too.

A nice little serving of tripe came next. The tripe was tender, perfectly done, and delicious. This is a rich dish, but in true bouchon fashion not at all expensive to make. Every the self critique, I enjoyed eating this, for I was in the mood.

But I have to say, I won’t always be up for it like I am other proteins like say chicken or fish. Still I’m glad I made it. And I definately will make it again. Its richness and unapologietic attititude on the palate tells diners to put up or shut up, but still I urge

my readers to try this, at least once. Another thought is that this would be perfect as a first course, perhaps a third the size of this full portion, before moving on to milder fare.

Enjoy!

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