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John Asbaty of Panozzo's takes honeycomb tripe from "funky" to "fresh"

A love-it-or-hate-it variety meat gets transformed into sausage.

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The Chef: John Asbaty (Panozzo's Italian Market)
The Challenger: Jonathan Zaragoza (Masa Azul)
The Ingredient: Honeycomb tripe

Tripe seems to be one of those foods that people either love or hate—or sometimes love to hate. Blogger Carol Blymire, who cooked her way first through The French Laundry Cookbook and then Alinea, described the smell as "one that nearly renders you unconscious, melts your eyelashes off, and leaves a black fog of death in its aftermath." She proceeded to try it anyway and declared it "absolutely, positively the worst thing I have ever eaten in my life."

There are many other accounts online of self-declared adventurous eaters who tried to like tripe and failed miserably—but there are also plenty of testimonials from people who swear it's delicious. It's common in too many countries to list, beef tripe being by far the most popular kind. Honeycomb tripe comes from the cow's second stomach, the reticulum; there's also blanket tripe from the first stomach, bible tripe from the third (also known as leaf or book tripe), and the rarely used reed tripe from the fourth stomach.

John Asbaty has eaten plenty of tripe—in menudo, pho, and a Florentine-style dish with stewed tomatoes—but had worked with it only occasionally. He describes the texture as spongy and slightly gelatinous, noting that it's very chewy if it isn't cooked long enough. "It doesn't have a ton of forward flavor," he says, but "it's definitely got that funky, organy background note."

Last year, Asbaty says, he wanted to put a tripe sandwich on the menu at Panozzo's, but couldn't find a local source for it; he was told that the law required a separate facility just to process tripe, and no one wanted to deal with that. The honeycomb tripe he ordered came from one of his purveyors in a ten-pound frozen block that took two days to thaw.

Asbaty considered making a rustic Italian dish with the tripe, substituting it for pasta in a tomato sauce, but eventually settled on sausage instead. "I decided to think of it more like pigskin. It has that same gelatinous, tough quality," he said. Cotechino sausage, which uses pigskin, was his inspiration, though he spiced it more like a southern Italian sausage, with Calabrian chiles, mint, marjoram, parsley, red wine, garlic, and toasted fennel. The sausage itself consisted of parcooked tripe ground with pork shoulder, bone marrow, and pork fatback, stuffed into beef middles (casings made from the cow's large intestine)—"just to keep the beef theme going," Asbaty said.

He also made a ragout of tripe with cranberry beans, onion, carrot, fennel, red wine, and tomato sauce cooked in rendered bone marrow. After braising the tripe for several hours until it was tender, Asbaty reserved the cooking liquid and used half of it to cook the cranberry beans (to let them soak up the tripe flavor) and reduced the other half with roasted pork stock to make a jus. The sausage had already been poached to about medium rare, and while the ragout was cooking, Asbaty seared a few slices of it, basting the pieces with the rendered fat.

The third element on the plate was a salad of pea shoots, baby red-veined sorrel, shaved radishes, and bagna cauda croutons (croutons cooked in butter, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil). Asbaty also made a quick pesto with the radish greens and Sicilian almonds, which finished the dish, along with some of the pork and tripe jus.

"It's pretty rich, but it's balanced by those light, fresh elements," Asbaty said. "The sausage isn't hugely tripe-forward, but I think you get it at the end." He's sold some of the sausage in the store already, and froze the rest, which he served at the Key Ingredient Cook-Off on May 3.

Who's next:

Tony Diaz, sous chef at Maude's Liquor Bar, working with cactus. Asbaty says he's heard it's tricky: "If you don't cook it right, I think it's pretty slimy."

Tripe sausage with cranberry beans, braised tripe, and pea shoot-sorrel salad

Tripe

10 lbs honeycomb tripe, rinsed well and soaked in lightly salted water overnight
2 cups kosher salt
4 onions, peeled & cut in half
4 carrots, peeled and cut in thirds
4 stalks celery, cut in thirds
4 fennel stalks, cut in thirds
10 cloves garlic
¼ cup ground Aleppo chile
3 sprigs mint
3 sprigs marjoram
4 fresh bay leaves
Water, as needed

Place the tripe in a large pot and cover with cold water by at least six inches. Bring to a simmer and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover with a parchment lid and simmer one and a half to two hours or until barely tender. Remove and reserve five pounds of tripe for the sausage, and continue simmering the remaining tripe for another one and a half to two hours, until very tender. Allow the tripe to cool in the braising liquid. When cool, set aside enough braising liquid to cover and cook the beans, and reserve the rest to combine with the pork stock below. Reserve the braised tripe for the cranberry beans listed below.

Sausage

5 lbs reserved, parcooked tripe
10 lbs pork shoulder, cut roughly into one-inch cubes
2 lbs bone marrow, removed from the bone and frozen
4.5 ounces salt
8 ounces preserved Calabrian chiles, pureed into a paste
3 cups of red wine
15 cloves garlic
Aest and juice of 2 oranges
¼ cup fennel seed, toasted
2 cups packed mint leaves, chopped
2 cups packed parsley leaves, chopped
½ cup packed marjoram leaves, chopped
Beef middles or hog casings for stuffing

Lightly crush the garlic cloves, steep in the red wine and chill until needed. Season the tripe, pork, and bone marrow with the salt, chile paste, and herbs and grind, making sure the mixture remains cold throughout the process. Add the orange zest, fennel seed, and herbs and strain the red wine into the sausage mixture. Mix in a stand mixer or by hand until the mixture becomes somewhat pastelike and the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Stuff into beef middles or hog casings and hang or let sit overnight. Poach the sausage at 150-155 degrees until just cooked through and chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, slice into quarter- or half-inch rounds and sear until golden brown, basting with the rendered fat until heated through. Season lightly with coarse sea salt.

Roasted pork stock

5 lbs pork neck bones, roasted until golden brown
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
2 carrots, peeled and cut in thirds
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
2 fennel stalks, cut in thirds
¼ cup tomato paste
2 fresh bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Cover the roasted pork bones with the water by several inches and bring to a simmer. Skim any foam that rises to the surface, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer gently for six to eight hours or overnight. Strain the stock, combine with whatever tripe stock was left from the braised tripe and reduce until the stock coats the back of a spoon and is very full flavored. Season to taste.

Cranberry-bean ragout

2 lbs dried cranberry beans, soaked overnight
Reserved tripe stock, as needed
Salt to taste
2 lbs reserved braised tripe, diced into half-inch pieces
1 cup diced onion
½ cup diced fennel
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup red wine (the same kind of wine used in the sausage)
1 cup tomato passata, or strained tomato sauce
Reduced pork and tripe stock, as needed
Rendered bone marrow fat, as needed
Chopped parsley to garnish

Cover the beans with the tripe stock by two inches and bring to a simmer. Cook at a gentle simmer until tender but still holding their shape. Season to taste with salt during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking and allow to cool in the cooking liquid. To make the ragout, heat the rendered bone marrow fat in a sauce pot large enough to fit the beans and saute the onion, fennel and carrots until softened and lightly brown. Add the braised tripe and red wine. Reduce the wine by a little more than half and add the tomato and enough pork/tripe stock to barely cover the beans. Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced and the beans are glazed and tender. Garnish with chopped parsley and keep warm until needed.

Salad

Small handful of pea shoots
Small handful of baby red veined sorrel
2 tablespoons red wine pickled carrots, plus 2 tablespoons of the pickling liquid
Shaved radishes, greens reserved for pesto
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients in a small mixing bowl, dress with the olive oil and season with the sea salt to taste.

Radish-green pesto

Reserved radish greens from above
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Salt to taste

Blanch the radish greens in boiling salted water for 10 to 15 seconds, then shock in ice water. Drain and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Place the greens in a blender with the lemon zest and process with enough olive oil to make a smooth puree. Reserve for plating.

To plate: Place a base of radish-green pesto on the bottom of the plate. Top with the cranberry-bean and braised tripe ragout. Place the seared sausage on the beans and top with the radish and herb salad. Sauce the place and the sausage with the reduced pork and tripe stock. Eat!

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