Poutine is a combination of french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy that was first concocted in rural Quebec. The New Yorker pointed out that the messy comfort food, long a staple of Canadian diners and pubs, is today also prepared in an array of gourmet versions and increasingly common in U.S. restaurants. Graduates from culinary arts institutes may find that this dish offers great opportunities to bring together fun tastes and textures in a uniquely satisfying whole. Here’s what you need to know to begin crafting your signature poutine:
Topping the fries right
Poutine has three basic components, and the best versions use quality ingredients and painstaking preparation for each. Serious Eats noted that getting extremely fresh cheese curds of less than a day old is essential to achieve the ideal texture, resulting in a squeak when you bite into them. If such curds are not readily available, it is possible to make your own by using calcium chloride, thermophilic culture and animal rennet.
“Extremely fresh curds are essential to achieve the ideal texture.”
Most poutines feature a beef gravy. However, the brown gravy can be made with other kinds of meat and poultry or vegetarian options. For a thick, tasty beef sauce, Saveur recommended combining four cups of beef stock with flour, a shallot, garlic, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, peppercorns, ketchup, salt and pepper.
The french fries used in the dish are usually crispy and of a medium thickness. This makes them sturdy enough to be enjoyed after they are doused with gravy. Cut russet potatoes into strips about half an inch. You can fry the potatoes at a lower temperature or, as Bon Appetit advised, soften them up by blanching before crisping them at about 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once all the components are ready, set the fries on a platter. Add the curds, topping it off with gravy and perhaps a garnish of chives for an old-school poutine. Of course not all chefs stop there.
Experimenting with poutine south of Ontario
While some American restaurants keep their poutine straightforward and true to its roots, others have explored the possibilities of adding different types of cheese, gravy and other toppings to the mix. By offering customers loads of options for customization or creating unusual takes of their own, these establishments bring excitement to a late-night classic.
Saus in Boston is one place where poutine lovers are free to create the perfect variation for their tastes by selecting from several savory and intriguing toppings. The meal starts with the expected hand-cut fries, house-made gravy and curds. However, from there customers can pick from add-ins such as bacon bits, a deep-fried egg, pork belly, truffled mushrooms, or bacon and stout-braised beef.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Spudds in Pasadena uses a soy-based gravy and curds made from several cheeses – including cheddar, havarti and mozzarella – in its 11 different poutines. Among those are varieties made with fried chicken or chunks of corn dog and the Mexican Fiesta featuring carne asada, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Customers who want to try a different kind of tater innovation also can enjoy baked potatoes stuffed with toppings such as chili, onions and cheese.
Dallas’ The Blind Butcher is a pub that similarly values variety, with a wide range of creative poutines on hand. The choices include a version with duck fat fries, confit and an egg and another with pulled pork, barbecue fries and coleslaw. Those who truly want to step up their experience can opt to add foie gras. The Manual noted that the restaurant even welcomes vegetarians with a mushroom poutine.
Those who visit Muddy Waters Bar and Eatery in Minneapolis at brunch will kick back with a selection from the coffee bar or something stronger, like a mimosa or bloody mary. The usual food choices are there as well, with eggs Benedict and crepes on the menu. Those who crave something different and hearty, however, can devour a breakfast poutine with sausage or mushroom gravy, cheddar curds and a sunny-side up egg. If that’s not enough, you have the option to throw in your choice of protein.
Whatever toppings you prefer on your poutine, anyone with culinary academy training can bring craftsmanship and inventiveness to this dish. With its three delicious fundamental elements, this ultimate comfort food leaves plenty of room to try out all your favorite flavors and show off your skills.