8 February 2014

The Book of Tripe

The Book of Tripe: and Gizzards, Kidneys, Feet, Brains and All the Rest by Stéphane Reynaud (Translated from the French by Melissa McMahon) Murdoch Books, London 2014

If you're a fan of nose to tail eating, or maybe just somebody who's enjoyed an offal dish or two in a fine restaurant, it's likely that you've been put off by the task of cooking these cuts of meat on your own. Indeed, I've worked up my own theory of why offal is so unpopular; it's not that we're so rich that we can afford to turn our backs on it - a quick glance at historical menus tells a rather different story - it's that offal is really easy to ruin.

This has meant that three essential books have been missing from our shelves. First, a home kitchen offal text book with clear directions on (for example) how to clean a kidney, parboil tripe, and peel testicles. Second would be a global encyclopedia of recipes.  Something that would tell you that tripe fried rice was eaten in Indonesia, and tripe and beans were from Tuscany. Finally, I'd want the cheat sheet - a book of easy recipes that I could crack open and cook on those nights that friends come over for a real nose to tail meal.

I was hoping that The Book of Tripe would fall into the first category - I've messed up an awful lot of lamb kidneys in my time - and would have been pleased to see it fall in the second, I'm a sort of food gossip, always wanting to know more about what people eat. What never occurred to me was that it would be in the third group; the perfect book to pull off the shelf when you're preparing a dinner party. It might not be a textbook, but The Book of Tripe offers great dishes, clear instructions, and measurements in American and European. A very useful book.

Looking at the tripe section alone; you can find Tripe With Tomato and White Wine, Tripe Salad and Gras-double á la Lyonnaise. All are dishes that you can be happy to serve, clearly described and within the skills of most hobbyist home-cooks. There's plenty more too, covering pretty much everything between the nose and tail. Even Cow Udder with Sauce Gribiche ... I mean ... I'm the sort of person who attends pig slaughters as a social event and I had no idea you could even eat the udder of a cow.

I do have one criticism of the book and it's something those of us in the English-speaking world have to take seriously. The book frequently instructs you to have your butcher prepare the offal. This may be possible in France or Italy, but here, any butcher that can properly clean a kidney is almost certainly in an immigrant market when English isn't spoken fluently. At local shops on my home turf of  New Jersey, USA, it's assumed that anybody who buys a pig's liver already knows what to do with it.

No, this isn't the definitive offal cookbook, it is a really terrific one though. A book that will get us serious home cooks through dozens of dinner parties. It's also a great starting point for pubs or locavore restaurants that want to add an offal dish or two to their menu.

So here I am, ready to invite people over for a Chicken Liver and Spinach Salad and some Tripe with Cider á la Mode de Caen and thanks to Chef Reynaud, I have clear instructions on how to make them. As long as I remember not to ask my very American butcher to de-bone a cow's foot for me, I'm in good shape.

Brian Yarvin
Author, Educator, Photographer
(Brian Yarvin's A World of Noodles is due for publication later this year).

For other tripe books, please visit the TMB's Bookstore.

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