I was recently able to procure some epoisses for the first time since my trip to Burgundy in 2016. For those of you not familiar with this cheese, it is truly a delight. Technically called Epoisses de Bourgogne this is a washed rind cows milk cheese that uses the local spirit Marc de Bourgogne as part of the wash. I’m not an expert in anything cheese related except eating it, so I won’t try to get into the technical details of how it is made. I’ll just note that it is pungently funky and delicious. This is probably the first “stinky” cheese that I have really enjoyed. Classically epoisses is allowed to ripen until it is runny enough to be eaten with a spoon and smeared onto bread (see the picture). I can’t say that I’ve had one that ripe, but maybe one day. The aromas are certainly in the barnyard, sweaty, funk arena, but there is also a hint of brine. The taste and texture are what is really great. It is like eating a soft wave of pure umami. So savory, salty, and richly textured. Fabulous!
So, after we had eaten about half of it, we decided to try to use the other half to recreate a dish my wife had in Burgundy which was chicken topped with an epoisses cream sauce. I found a simple recipe online and made a few adjustments.
Epoisses cream sauce:
1/2 wheel of epoisses, cut into chunks
1/2 cup of dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream
Freshly ground pepper
Heat the stock and wine to a low boil and reduce just a bit. Add the cream and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, add the epoisses chunks and continue to slowly boil/simmer until these are completely melted. Stir constantly/frequently during this time to prevent burning. Once fully melted, add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Really simple; took about 15 minutes total. We then drizzled this sauce over pan seared chicken breasts that were on a bed of wilted chard and kale (to make us feel like the dish was at least a little bit healthy). The sauce without a doubt made the meal and it was incredible. Rich, salty, and savory with a creamy and delicious mouthfeel.
Of course we had to pair this with a Burgundy so I pulled a 2000 Domaine Trapet Latricieres-Chambertin out of the cellar. This was a knockout bottle. Beautiful aromas of red berry fruits, worn leather, forest floor, ferrous minerality, floral notes, game meat, black tea, and a hint of sweet spice. The palate was remarkably fresh and vibrant with great depth and volume that continued to improve throughout the meal. The tannins are still there, but nearly resolved and the freshness of the acids balanced the depth perfectly. The finish lasted a full minute. Having had a prior bottle, this was definitely a better showing. I love the wines of Trapet and this proved that they can compete with the best wines produced from the Gevrey-Chambertin grand crus.
It was a fabulous meal and took me back to Beaune. I’d highly recommend trying some epoisses if you can find it! Enjoy