There's a reason why the French refer to tripes in the plural. Cows have four different stomachs, each with its own function. Form follows function in each of the stomachs, and we have different patterns and shapes to appreciate when we find them freshly prepped for the cook pot at the butcher. Any respectable tripe dish should have a sampling of each stomach, because their shapes and forms allow them to sopp up sauce in different ways. A perfectly prepared dish of tripes will give you a variety of mouthfeel all throughout the dish, as each piece will pick up the stewing juice differently.
Since tripes prepared from their raw form take several hours to reach a digestible consistency, for the most part, your butcher will carry tripes that have been previously cleaned and boiled, and are ready to take on whatever style you choose with another hour of simmering. One great thing about tripes is you can never simmer them too long! Prepared tripes run from a brilliant white to a faded tea stained color, depending on which parts of the stomachs they came from. The ones that have not been pre-boiled will look like they need a good cleaning. If you are not sure, ask your butcher.
A nice way to fix tripes
1 kilo beef tripes, cleaned and boiled by the butcher
1/4 cup good olive oil
2-3 cups white wine
5 or 6 tomatoes or 3 tablespoons tomato paste in winter
4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
2 medium sized onions, roughly chopped
1 bouquet garni
2 or three poivre long or black peppercorns
1 teaspoon spice mix maison
salt and pepper
-Cut the tripes into about 2cm sized (1 inch)crisscrossed chunks.
-Faire fondre the onion in olive oil (that is saute until soft without browning)
-Add the tripes and let sizzle for a little while, then add the whole garlic cloves, the herbs, tomato paste and white wine. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, and simmer for an hour. Add the spices at the end.
A wonderful variation of this dish which I like very much is to replace the tomato paste with the juice of one lemon and 2 tablespoons white cider vinegar. At the end, in the last five minutes, when you add the other seasonings, add about a 1/2 cup of pitted black olives. Which one you prepare depends on your mood for tomatoes. You really can't go wrong with tripes, they like acidic mediums to simmer in. I have served tripes over rice, with country bread, etc. Greens of any kind go well with tripes, but what I like best is to serve them alone, followed by a clean crisp simple salad.