I never would have expected to enjoy Champagne and Chitlins in France, but recently I indulged in the culinary treat in the medieval town of Troyes, located 180 km (110 miles) outside of Paris. I like the ring of Champagne and Chitlins, but for those of you not familiar with Chitlins let me explain what they are. Are you ready?
Chitlins, aka Chitterlings (for you city folks) are the small intestines of a pig cooked in broth. They are an African-American and Southern United States culinary treat—a main stay of true Soul Food.
Not only are they eaten in the United States but all over Asia, Latin America, and Europe. In Troyes, France, they call it Andouillette which is prepared using an original recipe which dates back to the middle Ages.
The Andouillette of Troyes
A shining star of Troyes aside from the well-preserved timbered houses and magnificent stained glass windows is its signature dish Andouillette made by cured pork specialists or Charcutiers. You’ll see their shops all over town and especially at the Troyes food market.
A true Andouillette connoisseur would never accept an imitation. They look for the five-As marked A.A.A.A.A (The Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentic ((the Friendly Association of Authentic Andouillette Lovers)) to ensure the best quality authentic Troyes pork intestine sausage ever.
The real deal, a Troyes Andouillette, is prepared exclusively from the large intestine and stomach of the pig. The meat is specially selected and cut in strips lengthwise, not into small pieces. It is then thoroughly cleaned, seasoned with fresh onions, salt and pepper and placed in its natural casing by hand. Then the Charcutiers will cook them in their secret stock for five hours.
Enough for an Army and Fit for a King
When the Royal Army crossed the walls of Troyes to take the city from the Ligueurs which was under the command of French aristocrat and general Duke of Guise, Governor of Champagne, the soldiers split in the Saint-Denis area. They stayed way too long in the tripe houses where stomach linings and other ruminants, used as food such as andouilles (smoked sausage similar to Andouillette) were stored. That gave the Ligueurs the perfect opportunity to surprise the soldiers and throw them out of Troyes.
The Sun King, Louis XIV, a true gourmand who had an appetite for luxury stopped in Troyes to enjoy Andouillette which at that time had already become quite famous in the kingdom.
It is noted that in 1805, Napoleon I, was “imperially” delighted with Andouillette. With an impressive fan base like that, no wonder over 20 million Andouillette sausages are produced annually.
The Champagne Fairs of Troyes
Troyes was destined to be a Champagne region city, after all it’s shaped like a cork and was home to trade fairs with the same name.
The Champagne fairs were organized by the Counts of Champagne and encouraged the prosperity of commercial exchanges, but in strict accordance with their policies to ensure the travelers and traders were safe. Six great fairs were held a year, the largest ones in Troyes (St. Jean Hot Fair and the St Rémi Cold Fair).
The half-timbered houses still stand where fair-goers from around the world met to exchange money, purchase silks, leathers, furs, spices, precious woods and gold and silver wares and of course enjoy Champagne and Andouillette.
Champagne and Andouillette
I sampled two local Andouillette dishes; one cooked and served in a Champagne sauce and the other served with a creamy Dijon mustard sauce. Both were unique and delicious whether they are served with sides of crispy French fries or creamy scalloped potatoes. Of course the glass of Champagne adds an exclusive touch.
Champagne and Andouillette, who says opposites don’t attract? We pair food and condiments all the time like strawberries and balsamic vinegar. So, when you’re talking about Champagne and Andouillette, you’d be surprised how much this is a match made in heaven. Yes, it’s an unexpected flavor combination, but at one time so was peanut butter and chocolate.