Mac n’ stank: Époisses

I love strong cheese. However, some cheeses are so rank they can be a challenge to enjoy. I can tell how much they smell based on level of packaging they require. Paper-wrapped? Mild. Plastic-wrapped? Probably stinky. Shrink-wrapped in a box? Soon, I would find out.
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Classics together: White Burgundy, Pain au Levain, and Époisses

Époisses de Bourgogne garners biohazard levels of containment. As soon as it enters my sedan’s closed airspace, a most foul odor emits–like something’s dead. I have to roll the window down just to drive a few miles. Once I get it home, I transfer it to a sealed plastic container (in addition to its being shrink-wrapped). Makes no difference. The next day, upon opening the fridge, I am greeted by rotten feet. Damn. How can I contain it?


Solution: glass jar with locking rubber seal. Waterproof. Airproof. Stinkproof. And, after opening all the doors and windows, my apartment clears. I plan on having friends over who love Époisses, thus the reason for this spendy, smelly cheese. Except that’s a few days away.

Then a head cold hits me like a semi. My olfactory sense is shot for over a week. I can’t taste or smell anything, let alone stinky gourmet cheese. The container is shoved to the back of the fridge by other containers brimming with garlic bone broth. I forget about it for another week. What is already very pungent is further fermenting, perhaps putrefying.

Yeah, I get that the rind is washed with marc de Bourgogne as it ages (a local brandy made from wine grape pressings), and it’s supposed to be powerful. Like Andouillette–a French sausage made from pig colon–Époisses is an acquired taste. Understood. There are degrees. And this is way beyond the Third. Or so it seems. But what to do with insanely-overripe cheese costing a small fortune? How about diluting it in mac and cheese?

It’s worth a try.

Still ferocious after being unleashed outside, it mellows abit with significant open air time. The inside is still quite gooey and delicious, though very strong. A profound savory pudding. Time to experiment with the toxin.

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Époisses rinds are washed with marc, giving a ‘distinctive’ aroma

When added to béchamel, it’s becoming tame, instead showing subtle nutty notes. Quite delicious, actually. Heating seems to nix the stench, forming a pornographically rich, complex sauce for my awaiting rotini pasta. Who knew?

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It’s so creamy, it’s obscene

Time to take the rotted rind out to the compost. Upon returning, the feet smell somewhat dissipates, though I explain to dinner guests that no one’s dead in the apartment. The results are mouth-watering. And, it’s a stunning pair with Premier Cru Chablis, one of my favorites.

Reconsidering, it’s a cheesy miracle. What was almost thrown away due to being way beyond, turned into an amazing main course, and a new favorite. Thanks to the stank.

If you enjoy Époisses, and mac n’ cheese, try it. If you detest Époisses due to its aroma, try it. Every foodie owes it to themselves to explore what’s possible with this superlative soft cheese.
All images and content copyright ©2017 Eric Schadel. All rights reserved.

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