Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets...


Poutine is a delicious indulgence that can be light on the wallet, but certainly not on the calories! It is in the category of foods that I refer to as "heart attack on a plate," but man, is it delicious! First made in Quebec, Canada between the 1950s and 70s, poutine has taken on many forms in many countries, and even has variations in its home of Quebec. Some argue over what type of sauce the original dish was made with but, most commonly, poutine is a bed of crispy french fries (chips) smothered with white cheddar cheese curds and a thick peppery chicken velouté sauce, creating one big sloppy mess of goodness. One man claiming to be the creator, uses a potato sauce, but variations range from barbeque sauce to marinara sauce, for "Poutine Italianne". New York and New Jersey, USA is one of many regions that have taken on their own version poutine. In the 1970s, late night disco crowds in New York City started ordering an off the menu item, which soon became known as "disco fries," and today, still off the menu and still hugely popular, "cheese fries and gravy" are the most popular match to poutine in that region. Poutine is hugely famous, but has been the source of embarrassment as well. French-Canadians are known for their excellent "high-cuisine," so many used to think of poutine as a dish for the lower classes, and would deny ever tasting, much less enjoying it! Poutine is rather hard to refuse, and I consider it budget-friendly because it's so heavy and filling that if you eat a full plate of it, chances are you won't want to eat anything else for a while! These days poutine can be found in both high and low end restaurants, made at home, and poutine sauce is even packaged and sold commercially in grocery stores throughout Canada. It can be made very easily, but keep in mind that it's the sauce and cheese curds that make the dish what it is. To get a taste of this diet-busting dish, follow the directions below. If you want to start from scratch, use the below recipe for poutine sauce!


Prepare approximately 2 cups of french fries, either from a frozen bag or make them yourself (recommended) using Idaho or Prince Edward Island potatoes. Place in a bowl. Drop 1/2 Cup of White Cheddar Cheese Curds (as fresh as possible) on top of fries, then ladle 1 Cup of sauce (of your choice) over the top, while hot. Let sit for 3-5 minutes so the sauce and cheese can work together.

If you'd like poutine sauce where you have a little more control over what comes out, here's a basic sauce which you can use as a base. While you could use it for a poutine sauce as described, you should at least add salt and pepper to taste.

1 quart stock: chicken or veal
2 ounces flour
2 ounces butter or oil

Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan. Combine the fat and flour, cook over high heat, stirring until you have a pale roux (2-3 minutes). Whip the roux into the stock. Simmer (30-40 min), skimming the surface every 5-10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a chinois or strainer lined with cheesecloth. Salt and pepper to taste.
The above is the recipe for the Velouté sauce, which is the base for a poutine sauce. To make it into a poutine sauce, reduce it by a factor of 2-4 over medium heat. You can also try one of the following modifications:
-Add 2 Tsp of pepper to the roux before adding to the stock, for an extra-peppery sauce. Floor-sweeping pepper (the kind sold pre-ground, in bulk) is preferred by classicists.
-Add 2 Tsp of fresh ground green peppercorns to the stock while reducing.
-Prior to adding the stock, dice 1 small sweet onion into the saucepan, add 2 TBsps of balsamic vinegar, and reduce
*Photo from
*Recipe from

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