Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No spam schnitzel for me

Growing up I was lucky enough to not be subjected to any horrible meals that have scarred me in later life to try flavours or be repulsed by scents or sights.  I was not forced to consume bowls of kidneys, tongue, liver or oxtail; spam was not crumbed and passed off as a schnitzel; and to my mothers dismay, (she hated sausages), the halfed sausages topped with paw paw chutney and cheese then grilled, was actually one of my favourites. There were some darkened memories of having to consume corn beef and white sauce at Grandma's for Sunday lunch, (I thought there was something wrong with a big chunk of meat boiling in a pot of water), but apparently corn beef is 'normal'. Random animal body parts were not forced upon me as food. 

Since moving to Europe and having the opportunity to travel some more, I have been more exposed to whole-animal cooking; top to toe; waste not want not.  I had to ask my husband what tripe was when I spotted it at the markets.  "What, you've never had tripe before?" By reaction, you would of thought I just told him I was part of the Secret Service.  Apparently this food, "Tripe" they are calling it,  is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals such as beef, sheep, ox, goats, pigs and deer. Mmmmmm, sounds devine!  In some parts of Europe, scrotum, brain, chitterlings (pig's small intestine), trotters (feet), heart, head (of pigs, calves, sheep and lamb), kidney, liver, "lights" (lung), sweetbreads (thymus or pancreas), fries (testicles), tongue, snout (nose), tripe (reticulum) and maws (stomach) from various mammals are common menu items. So when I spotted tripe in the supermarket, I thought it was time to get adventurous.  I figured for the price of 1.45€, I will not be overly disappointed if my children 'accidently drop their dinner on the floor'. 

Now what?
  After relying on my google translate once again, I discover I have purchased adult ox; I am gathering there is not too much difference in flavour between animals stomach lining? Excuse the inappropriate language, but it all looks like old man scrotum to me, (or old ladies elbow); not extremely appetising to look at!   Time for a recipe search, and I am hoping to make something authentically Italian.  I find 3 options;
  1. Trippa alla fiorentina — in Italy (fried with tomatoes and other vegetables)
  2. Trippa alla Romana — in Italy (done with white wine and tomatoes)
  3. Trippa alla Savoiarda — in Piedmont/Italy (stewed with vegetables, white wine, sauce from roasted beef and served covered with grated Parmigiano Reggiano/Grana Padano cheese)
 Trippa alla Romana (Tripe Roman Style) is my choice. Apparently "The taste of tripe cooked with tomato blends perfectly with the pecorino romano cheese and the fresh mint, giving this dish a unique flavor". After searching on the Internet, I have best adapted several 'authentic' recipes, to suit what I already have in my kitchen.  Beauty of having young children, I will just tell my daughter it is chicken and hopefully she will eat it!  (Come to think of it, my mother gave me lots of chicken dishes growing up... at least I think they were chicken?!?)

Components of concoction
  • approximately 1/2 kg tripe
  • salt
  • 50g bacon, diced (I used 100g prosciutto cotto- ham- told you I was improvising)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • diced stem of broccoli (only because I didn't have any celery)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • crushed red pepper (small pinch of chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • tin tomatoes, (supposed to be fresh tomatoes puréed in a blender, but I like it chunky and was being lazy)
  • small bunch of fresh mint
  • 60 g pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated

What's next?

  1. Rinse very well the tripe in fresh water. Fill a stockpot with water, 2 tablespoons of salt, and the tripe. Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes to tenderize. Drain and cut the tripe in slices about 2 cm wide.(I bought my tripe sliced, so I missed this step all together.  Not sure if this was wise?)
  2.  Chop the bacon, onion, broccoli stem, and carrot finely together. In a saucepan, put the olive oil and turn the heat to medium. Add the chopped vegetables and pinch of chilli flakes. Sauté until the onion is soft. Stir in the tripe.
  3.  Add the wine, turn the heat to high, and let the wine evaporate. Add the tomatoes, 5–6 mint leaves, and salt, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 1 hour or longer, until the tripe is tender. (During cooking time, stir occasionally and add warm water if necessary to prevent the tripe from sticking to the pan, I used some vegetable stock, and cooked for 1 hour and 20 mins.)
  4.  When the tripe is almost ready remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate to thicken the sauce.  Add some fresh mint leaves and serve warm with grated pecorino romano cheese.  (I let my daughter add this herself thinking it will encourage her to eat it.) 

 The real test - consumption
To be totally fair, I think I slipped with the chilli flakes and it even tasted a little warm for me.  I served it over some mash potato and drained it slightly from the sauce in hope to illiminate some of the heat from the chilli to save my childrens tongues, (I also added some penut butter which dwindled the heat, I had now definitely abandoned the authentic Italian dish)!  I am a once only dinner kind of gal, only one option is given and if they do not eat it they can have some fruit.  But anticipating failure, (yeh really positive I know), I did provide the kids with a late and substantial afternoon snack.
To my suprise, dinner was a sucess.  The childrens plates were emptied, with minimal food making the floor, walls and ceiling.  I tried the dish, (prior to the penut butter entry), and was pleasantly suprised.  I was expecting it to be tough, but it actually melted in my mouth, and the flavours were that of a comforting stew.  It was not the taste, the look or the smell that I did not like; it was the fact that I knew what I was eating.  I have always thought to truly enjoy a good Aussie meat pie, you need to not think about what critters are in it!  We have now all tried tripe...  Let's leave it at that shall we!
IF Interesting Fact
Green tripe is highly recommended by the advocates of Raw Food for dogs.

I will be joining my husband for a salad tonight...

My parents are visiting next month, and yes dad, pig trotter will be on the menu!

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