Thursday, December 3, 2015

Poutine (or why you shouldn't judge based on appearance)

"What exactly is poutine?" you ask. It is yet another reason to love Canadians. Americans have stale tortilla chips and processed cheese sauce in the form of nachos. The Canadian answer to this is poutine: French fried potatoes, cheese curds and beef gravy. Poutine is big in Montreal. They actually have poutineries. You can get poutine at Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King in Canada. It's that ubiquitous. Maybe it sounds a little weird and I'm the first to admit that it doesn't actually look all that appetizing--but looks can be deceiving. Given the choice I would pick poutine over nachos (or pretty much any concession stand, diner, or fast food side dish available) any day of the week and twice on Sunday. It is the best of the best when it comes to pub grub.

Since we are close enough to Canada here in central NY to see border patrol vehicles routinely, it shouldn't surprise you that we are lucky enough to be able to get this delicacy at the concessions at the college hockey games. However, since most of you aren't so lucky, I decided to share our homemade version: crispy-fluffy homemade fries, lick-the-plate-good gravy and local fresh cheese curds. 

The plate was more than half gone by the time I was able to snap a decent photo.

Homemade Beef Gravy:
--1/4 cup butter
--1/4 cup flour
--4 tablespoons of beef base (not bouillon cubes!)
--2-3 cups water (depending on how thick you like your gravy--I got mine a little on the thin side, but it was still so delicious)
--1 tablespoon of Kitchen Bouquet--don't skip this. You need this stuff in your cupboard. I don't like pale gravy and usually don't have the patience to cook the roux long enough to get it dark, so I find this stuff essential.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux and then whisk in the beef base. Slowly add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and boil for at least 2 minutes to make sure the flour is all cooked. Add the Kitchen Bouquet and stir until combined. Add more water or cook a little longer until you reach your desired consistency. Taste the gravy. I found mine to be salty enough, but you'll want to adjust according to your personal preference. Keep the gravy warm on low, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn't form until your potatoes are all ready to go.

Homemade Oven Fries (originally posted here):
--8 medium potatoes, cut into eight wedges each (I just used white potatoes)
--10 TBS olive oil, divided

Wash, and cut potatoes. Rinse and set aside in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Prepare two heavy baking sheets by putting 4 tablespoons of oil on each sheet and spread the oil evenly over the sheet. I know it sounds like a lot, but you really do need this much oil so the potatoes don't stick.

After the potatoes have soaked, drain them and dry them with a some paper towels or a clean dish towel. Dry out the bowl and put them back in the bowl with the remaining two tablespoons of oil and toss to coat.

Spread the potatoes evenly in a single layer on the two pans and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake the potatoes for 5 minutes (this kind of flash steams them), then remove the foil. Continue baking for 15 to 20 more minutes, rotating the pans once during baking.

Now, take the pans out and using tongs or a spatula flip all the potato wedges over. Continue baking for 5 to 10 more minutes depending on desired doneness. The potato wedges will be golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

To prepare the poutine:
Pile some hot fries on a couple of plates, sprinkle with cheese curds and ladle gravy over the plate. Devour.


  • You can use beef broth or drippings in place of the water in the gravy if you have any on hand. You may need to adjust the amount of beef base if you opt for broth or drippings instead of water. 
  •  If you are making the fries by themselves you'll want to salt them, but if you are making the poutine, the cheese curds and gravy are plenty salty so skip salting them unless you want sodium overload.
  • We found that room temperature cheese curds would be best. The hot fries and gravy will make the curds a little melty and therefore more delicious. 
  • In a pinch you could substitute grated mozzarella cheese but for the dish to be as authentically Canadian as possible you need cheese curds. 
  • This made enough for seven fairly generous portions. If you're planning on feeding fewer people I'd probably half the recipe.
  •  I can't speak to the quality or tastiness of leftover poutine since we scarfed down every single bit. 

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