Discovering Andouillettes de Troyes with Chaource Sauce: A French Culinary Delight

By | 12 February 2024

The best wines for a divisive and strong-scented French dish.

By Joanna Simon

It is almost a badge of honour in France to assert a strong preference for andouillettes. If you lack affection for them, the implication is that you’re neither truly French nor a genuine Francophile. However, among Francophiles, there are few foods more divisive—and not all French folks are fans: their sales have been in gradual decline for years. 

Let’s be clear: it’s about the smell. Even those who delight in spending time in a small, poorly ventilated space filled with the powerful aroma of washed-rind cheeses, might find the fragrance of an andouillette too much of a barrier to enjoy the dish (could it be a genetic predisposition, like with coriander?). Meryl Streep displayed excellent diplomacy when she described the andouillette as possessing “a bit of a barnyard” aroma. 

During the filming of the movie Julia & Julia, where Meryl Streep portrays the iconic chef Julia Child, she and co-star Stanley Tucci ordered andouillette for lunch in a French bistro. Tucci thought mistakenly that andouillette would be akin to Louisiana’s andouille, or chitterlings sausage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Tucci’s depiction of the experience was colourful, but not suitable for sharing here. For those curious, it can be found on YouTube. My own encounters with andouillette have been similarly challenging, particularly when a kilogram of it ended up in my fridge, where it proved that with time, its surprisingly pungent odor could intensify even further.

Despite its notoriety, andouillette dishes remain a staple on French bistro menus, particularly in Paris. The dish carries a relatively hefty price tag due to the cost of transporting it from its regions of production to the city. According to the Troyes La Champagne tourism website, the andouillette de Troyes is almost seen as a luxury item in Paris. They also claim that historical figures like Louis XIV and Napoleon were among those who took a liking to it. It is said to have been a dish of opulence, a common feature at any respectable feast.

Related to the aforementioned, andouillettes are made, with variants, in several locations such as Lyon, Caen, Cambrai, Périgord, and Provence. But the one you are most likely to encounter outside these locales is the one from Troyes, the cathedral city in the southern Champagne region of the Aube. The Troyes Andouillette is an emblem of local pride due to its steadfast authentic recipe, artisanal manner of production, and its supposed role in historic religious wars.

It seems classic foods always come with fascinating folk tales, and I consider it my task to share these with you. Let’s take the andouillette de Troyes for instance. As legend has it, one night in 1590, 4000 soldiers from the royal exploratory force dispersed throughout the city intending to take back control from the followers of the Duke of Guise. But their mission was eventually compromised by the irresistible aroma (yes, you read that right) of the andouillettes being prepared by the local charcutiers. The troops eventually got carried away by their taste buds and deserted their mission. While they were indulging in andouillettes, the Catholic League made a surprise counterattack, annihilating hundreds of royal soldiers. This is how the tale is passed on through generations.

Before I delve deeper into the distinctive characteristics of andouillette de Troyes, let me clarify that andouillette differs from andouille. Both are made from intestines, but the more sizable andouille is smoked and can be consumed cold, whereas andouillette is typically consumed hot and is not smoked.

While some regions opt for veal innards, the andouillette from Troyes solely consists of pig intestines. The recipe includes two-thirds large intestines and one-third stomach chopped into elongated strips, suitably seasoned, and manually filled into a natural casing (also from the intestine) and then gently simmered in seasoned broth for three to five hours. About three kilograms of ingredients go into making one kilogram of andouillettes.

While there’s no official PDO or IGP recognition for the andouillette, the Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique, also known as AAAAA, issues a unique 5A certification to manufacturers whose andouillettes are deemed to be authentically made and of high quality. This is assessed through an annual blind tasting by a panel comprising of charcutiers, food critics, chefs, and enthusiastic connoisseurs. The certification is valid for two years, during which the awardees are permitted to display the 5A label on their packaging and signage. Presently, there are 28 such awarded productions, all located in France, with a sole exception in Kyoto, Japan.

Andouillette usually features in many cooking methods such as pan-frying, grilling, barbecuing, or even en papillote. All recipes require the use of wine (or cider), shallots, mustard, and usually, crème fraîche. The Aube region offers something distinctive: its signature dish, which is the andouillette prepared in a sauce made with their local creamy and rich Chaource cheese. This is usually referred to as andouillette de Troyes sauce Chaource, or gratinées au Chaource.

I initially thought adding more richness to the sauce was the wrong step, but it surprisingly eased or diluted the distinct flavor of pigs’ large intestine. This made two versions of the dish more appealing.

Interestingly, matching wines had a similar effect. Champagne didn’t sit right due to its bubbles clashing with the food texture. However, Premier Cru Chablis excelled, specifically mature vintages with a mix of age complexity and signature mineral vitality. A 2014 blended Premier Cru was notably good, slightly surpassing a William Fèvre Vaillons 2016. I would consider trying a Daniel-Etienne Defaix Côte de Lechet or Vieilles Vignes next time.

At the other side of Burgundy, a 2016 Pouilly Fuissé, from the vineyards of Domaine Dominique Corsin Les Chevrières, was also a good match. The evolution in bottle and tension counted. I believe a textural Bourgogne Aligoté, such as François Millet et Fils 2020, would go well too.

When cooked with a simple wine, shallot, and mustard sauce, as andouillette often is, there were some good red wine pairings—even with the usage of white wine. Moulin-à-Vent excellently took up the challenge, as usual, and this wasn’t surprising since andouillette is a speciality of the Beaujolais region (although made there with a specific part of the veal intestine). Moulin-à-Vent names that would attract attention include Domaine Olivier Merlin La Rochelle, Domaine Paul Janin et Fils Vignes du Tremblay, and Domaine Richard Rottiers. 

Loire Cabernet Franc such as Saumur-Champigny also worked well, but not only France had good options. Saperavi made its mark, particularly Saperavis from the Teliani Valley Winery in Kakheti. A simple, light blend of Pinot Noir, Saperavi and Rara Neagra from Moldova also proved a good match. For other red grape varieties, those with a peppery note, especially white pepper, are worth trying.

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