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"No matter how it's cooked, tripe [the lining of the first stomach of the cow] is an ordinary dish,"wrote Pellegrino Artusi a little more than a century ago. "I find it poorly suited to delicate digestions, though this is perhaps less true if it's cooked in the Milanese style, which renders it tender and light, or if it's cooked in the manner given below. In some cities tripe is sold already boiled; this is undeniably handy."

A bit of background is necessary here. Artusi was quite wealthy (he made enough money from dealing in silks to retire in 1850, when he was 30), and thought of tripe as something fit for a family meal -- not the sort of dish one would offer guests. Many of his contemporaries saw it in a considerably different light, however: It was cheap enough that almost anyone could afford to buy it once a week or perhaps more often (up until the 1950s a large segment of the Italian population was too poor to eat meat more than once or twice per week; their poverty was simply called miseria and is the primary reason so many emigrated), and therefore it was very common in the poorer sections of town. And its byproduct, tripe broth, was even more common. What is now a stylish antique shop on our street in Florence was a tripe boiler's when Elisabetta's grandfather was growing up (1905 or so), and though he recalled the smells produced by the processing of the tripe as ghastly, he also said the tripe broth the boilers gave away was quite good, and perfect for flavoring bread or rice. Those too poor to buy the finished product could at least enjoy its flavor.

Since then much has changed -- nobody goes asking for tripe broth, and I have never seen tripe that has not undergone the initial boiling in an Italian market or butcher's. Tripe has also undergone a curious reevaluation; it now commonly appears on the menus of elegant restaurants specialized in traditional cuisine, and people don't hesitate to serve it to guests.

Artusi recommends selecting tripe that is thickly corded; figure about a pound (500 g) per person. It should be white, but not overly white; Elisabetta's father was a butcher and warns that bone-white tripe may have been bleached. If you do buy raw tripe, wash it repeatedly, rinsing well to remove all traces of food or whatever else it may have, place it in a large pot with abundant water, an onion, a stick of celery, a carrot, and some parsley. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 4-5 hours, skimming the scum that rises to the surface fairly often; the tripe should become quite tender. Upon cooking it, cut it into finger-wide strips and it is ready to be prepared. What to do with it?

Stewing is the simplest answer. Artusi suggests you "cut the tripe into half inch wide strips and tie it tight in a sheet of cloth to drain it. When it has drained, remove it from the cloth and sauté it in 1/3 cup unsalted butter, and, once it has absorbed the butter add about two cups of meat sauce, or, in its absence, 3/4 pounds of canned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, simmer for as long as possible (at least an hour, and more will be better, adding liquid as necessary to keep it from drying out), and just before you serve it, dust it with grated Parmigiano."

Recipe drawn from Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di Mangiar Bene, the first successful cookbook aimed at the middle class (Translation mine, from The Art of Eating Well, 1996 Random House).

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Here are some other alternatives:

On Site
Busecca - Milanese Tripe Soup
This rich beany soup is winter comfort food at its finest.
Jellied Tripe
An unusual summer recipe that will make converts even of tripe haters; from my review of Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.
Trippa Legata Colle Uova -- A light lemony egg sauce works quite well with tripe.
Trippa alla Corsa -- Hearty tripe served with meat sauce.
Trippa alla Romana -- The classic, simple tripe served in the Eternal City.
Trippa all'Olivitana -- A Sicilian solution for tripe: stew it, and then bake it with cheese, eggplant and meat sauce. Fit for a feast!
Trippa all'Astigiana -- A classic, unusual market day dish from Piemonte.
Trippa alla Savoiarda-- Tripe stewed with tomatoes and seasoned with spices.
Polpette di Trippa -- Pellegrino Artusi's recipe for meatballs made from tripe -- extremely traditional and very tasty.
Zampa Burrata -- Stewed cow's foot, a historical curiosity but also a tasty recipe.
Agnello Trippato-- Lamb stewed the way one cooks tripe, a traditional Tuscan dish.

Buon Appetito!
Kyle Phillips

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