Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recipe: Is Poutine haute cuisine? It’s French….

If you want to look young and thin, hang around old fat people. – Jim Eason

The 2010 International Poutine Eating Championship, Toronto, Canada
Photo: onlyandrewn, Flickr ccl
Poutine is a guilty pleasure of many people around the world. Born in rural Québec in the 1950, it has now transcended its humble beginnings to not only greasy spoon diners, but also higher end restaurants where “traditional” toppings are replaced with luxury food items. I highlighted “traditional” because originally there were no toppings. They are all later additions.

This sinfully delicious dish takes only 3 main components: medium thick cut french fries, chicken gravy (or “brown” sauce – equal parts chicken and beef broth) and fresh cheese curds. It’s actually quite delicious when it all comes together. The hot gravy melts the fresh cheese over and into the fries so you have a fantastic cheesy, stringy forkful every bite.

Chips and gravy are quite common in takeouts and diners in North America, but it’s the fresh cheese that transforms it into poutine. No fresh cheese, no poutine.

Sadly, not very low in calories either. But what good in life doesn’t make you fat?

Component 1: french fries 
(or pomme frites if you want to get technical since the recipe comes from Québec)

You don’t have to heat up the deep frier unless you actually want to. I have had some great results lately using frozen french fries you bake in the oven. One local Canadian brand (McCain’s) has an extra crispy style that actually has the texture of deep fried when baked. This is a Godsend to me, as regular readers will know of my aversion to pots of oil on the stove. Also a little more healthy one would assume.

Fresh cheese curds are available bagged at your
grocer's deli.
Component 2: the brown sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups of broth (either all chicken, or half chicken half beef)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

The sauce is actually a “juiced up” broth. Simply take the butter, heat it in a saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Cook for about 1 minute to remove the taste of the flour. Then slowly add the broth and allow to simmer for 1/2 hour. After simmering, taste for salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid of either ingredient when you add them. (Can you say healthy?)

Component 3: fresh cheese curds
Fresh cheese curds are the solid parts of soured milk used mostly in Canada and the northeastern/midwestern United States. They are available locally from the grocery in little bags, and in Canada are almost always a product of Quebec. These unripened irregularly shaped balls of cheese are not really able to be substituted. If it’s absolutely impossible to get them either mozzarella or mild white cheddar can be used, but it isn’t the same.

The plated delicacy! Photo: mttsndrs, Flickr ccl
To assemble: 
Place hot fries on your plate or in a bowl. Sprinkle cheese curds over the top and ladle the hot gravy over the top. Let it sit for a minute for the hot gravy to melt the cheese.


Here are a few toppings you can add to your poutine:
• fried onions
• cut up hot dogs
• chicken pieces
• hamburger
• peas

Some “upscale” toppings include:
• lobster
• foie gras

Don’t turn your nose up at the lobster. Veal with lobster, and a light “sauce,” is a common upscale restaurant dish, and is delicious. Just change the basic gravy above to something less "beefy" in the recipe.


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