Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM
If you were born up North, it’s unlikely you’ve ever had chitterlings, which are pig intestines — thoroughly cleaned and, usually, boiled.
Earlier this year, I’d sampled andouillette, the notorious French chitterling sausage, at A La Traboule, a traditional Lyonnaise bouchon. Edouard Herriot, a former mayor of Lyon, summed up the sensory profile of this food quite accurately, comparing it to politics: “It should smell a little like s---, but not too much.”
In the ’70s, I lived in a student commune at 49th and Ellis in Woodlawn. Poor scholars and inept in the kitchen, we pooled funds to hire a cook, Mary from Mississippi. Once, just for fun, we requested that she make “down home food,” and Mary prepared raccoon and chitterlings.
The raccoon, I liked; the chitterlings…were challenging.
Walking in the door before dinner that night, the first thought that crossed my mind was “Oh damn. The toilets overflowed again.” But it was just chitterlings boiling on the stove.
Determined to make my own, I called around and found chitterlings at Mario’s, “the soul of the West Side” (5817 W. Madison), which proclaimed they offered the “cleanest chitts in Chicago.” The butcher barely contained his smile when I asked, innocently, “These are hand-cleaned, so do I need to clean them before cooking?”
“Oh yeah,” he nodded. “You’re going to want to do that.”
I double-rinsed the chitterlings, pulled off fat and cooked them this way:
1. Cover 5 lbs. chitterlings with water
2. Add 1 tsp. red pepper flakes and salt, 1 cup vinegar, chopped sweet pepper, onion and celery
3. Cook 5 hours in crockpot set “high” — and outdoors!
— David Hammond