Trippa alla Fiorentina?

If I said “tripe florentine style” everyone would turn away, right? But trippa alla fiorentina has a certain ring of. . . dare I say, exoticism? Even nobility? I had trippa alla fiorentina twice in three days recently and that alone should tell you that it’s delicious.

The Tuscan capital may be the only place in the world where tripe is an emblem of civic pride, a much loved street food, sold from carts in markets and on well-frequented corners where workers go for a panino di lampredotto to have with their lunch. But it’s also a dish served without condescension in most of the city’s restaurants. At Trattoria Due G, near the Santa Maria Novella train station, I had the classic dish, perfect for a gloomy, rainy November day. And then away to the south in Montepulciano, at another favorite restaurant, La Grotta, right across from the magnificent San Biagio church, I was given trippa as an antipasto, served on crostini and topped with very thin shavings of lardo that melted slightly in the heat of the trippa itself—that’s what you see

Lampredotto and trippa are but two of the four stomachs of the cow but I’m not going to get into that. It’s time for a long-promised recipe, this one from the late Angelo Pellegrini. As a small child, Angelo emigrated to the U.S. with his parents. He grew up in Washington state, and when I met him he was emeritus professor of English at the University of Washington. But he never forgot his Tuscan roots. He kept a Tuscan orto, or vegetable garden, he had a bread oven in his back yard (in which he also roasted rabbits that Schuyler Ingle raised for him), and he made wine every fall from grapes shipped to him by his old pal Robert Mondavi. And he baked trippa alla fiorentina whenever he felt homesick.

This is Angelo’s recipe for trippa. Be warned, however: If while you’re cooking this, certain barnyard odors emanate from the oven, they will eventually dissipate and by the time you sit down to eat will have completely disappeared leaving something quite delicious in their wake. This makes enough for a crowd (8 to 10 servings) so invite your friends.

1 cup white vinegar
4 pounds honeycomb tripe
1 cup dry white wine
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, including green leaves, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 to 2 tablespoons roughly chopped capers
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon arrowroot
2 cups chicken stock (or more if needed)
2 tablespoons tomato sauce or 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate
Dash of Tabasco
2 tablespoons Calvados, cognac or grappa
½ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (or more if you wish)
½ cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs

Combine the vinegar with 2 quarts of water in a big saucepan and bring to a boil. On the side have ready a bowl of cold water. Add the tripe to the boiling liquid and when it boils again, let it cook just 3 or 4 minutes, then remove the tripe and plunge it into the cold water. When the tripe is cool, drain it, remove and discard any lumps of fat, and slice the tripe into strips about ¼ inch wide. Transfer the tripe strips to a heavy, ovenproof pot, add the wine, bring to a boil and let it boil, uncovered, until most of the wine has evaporated. Take the pot off the heat and set it aside.

Add the pancetta to a saucepan and cook slowly over low heat until the pork bits are brown, then discard the melted pork fat, leaving the browned bits in the pan. Add the olive oil and butter and when the butter has melted, stir in the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook gently until the onion is transparent, then add the parsley, thyme, capers, and garlic. Sprinkle arrowroot over the mixture and stir to mix everything together.

Turn the oven on to 350º.

Combine the stock with tomato sauce (if you’re using tomato concentrate, dilute it thoroughly with a little stock, then stir back into the main body of stock) and Tabasco. Add this to the vegetable mixture and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes to combine the flavors. Pour this over the tripe and stir to mix well, then cover and transfer to the oven. Bake the tripe for about 4 hours, examining it from time to time and adding more hot stock or water as needed. The mixture should be dense but fluid.

When the tripe is done, taste and add salt and pepper. You can remove it from the oven now and set it aside until you’re almost ready to serve it. At that point, stir in the Calvados, grated cheese, and bread crumbs. Mix well. Put the tripe, uncovered this time, in a 240º oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

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