Question: I’ve noticed something called tripe in the meat case. What is it and how is it used?
Answer: In “How Cooking Works” (Macmillan Publishing: 1981) authors Sylvia Rosenthal and Fran Shenagel explain that “tripe is the muscular lining of beef stomachs. There are four kinds, but we are likely to find only two in our markets--the honeycomb and the smooth. Honeycomb tripe is easily recognizable by its thick ridges that do indeed resemble a honeycomb. This is the best known, the meatiest and the most desirable. Smooth tripe is thinner, but the taste is the same. Tripe requires long, careful preparation at the meatpacking plant where it is processed to remove the stomach contents and the mucous surface. It is therefore partly cooked when you buy it, but it still needs a lot of cooking to make it edible. Before this processing became standard practice, cooking fresh tripe was a long, drawn-out affair, sometimes taking as much as 24 hours of continuous cooking.
“Once the tripe is cooked and cooled, it can be cut into strips and breaded for sauteing, or brushed with melted butter and broiled, to be served with a well-seasoned sauce. There are a few world-famous dishes based on tripe, originally devised out of the need to use every part of meat animals. Tripe a la mode Caen, a stew flavored with apple brandy baked in a dough-sealed baking pot, is a brilliant example.
“Preparation: Trim the tripe, if necessary, and scrub it well with a vegetable brush. Blanch it by covering it with cold salted water, bring to boil, and boil for a minute or two. Drain and plunge it into cold water. Place it back in the saucepan and cover it with cold salted water. Add one onion studded with a few cloves, one bay leaf, some chopped celery leaves, four crushed peppercorns and a little dry white wine.
“Cover the pot and simmer gently until tender. This will take from one to three hours, depending on how much precooking was done in the processing plant. The only way you can tell if it is done is by tasting it. The texture should be like that of soft gristle; it should have a slight chewiness and not be completely soft.”
Q: Suet for plum pudding is not available in my market due to the prepackaging of meat. Is there a substitute or can you tell me where to find some?
A: It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? We don’t know of a substitute, but suet should be available at meat markets and specialty food stores that have butchers working in the meat department.
Q: I have been encountering recipes calling for Sherry vinegar, but I have not been able to find it in my market. Can you tell me where it might be obtained?
A: Again we refer you to specialty food stores such as Bristol Farms Markets, Gelson’s Markets, Irvine Ranch Farmers Markets, Jurgensen’s Grocery Company stores and Vons Pavilions. You might also check cookware specialty stores such as Williams-Sonoma or Montana Mercantile.