Introduction: Poutine

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Poutine is a classic Canadian dish of french fries and cheese curds, smothered in gravy. Sure, it's as unhealthy as it gets, but few things satisfy like the salty, greasy amazingness that is poutine. Though poutine may have originated in Québec, it has spread across Canada and is enjoyed nationally.

Since I moved away from the Great White North there's few things I miss more than a nice big helping of artery clogging poutine. Feeling a little homesick, and wanting to share this quintessential Canadian delicacy with my American counterparts, I decided to make up a huge batch to share.

Ready to giv'er? Grab your touque, and let's make some poutine!

Step 1:

Cribbing notes from Jessy's amazing curly fries, I followed many of the same directions.

Grab a few large Russet potatoes and scrub them until they are clean. Leaving the skins on, cut the potatoes into long slender strips (julienne). Traditional poutine fries as medium cut, and sometimes double fried to give the outside that extra crispy crunch.

After the potatoes are cut, fill a large bowl with the hottest water from the tap. Add cut potatoes to the hot water and let them soak for 15-20 minutes. Soaking the potatoes before frying removes excess starch and makes for light and fluffy interior. 

After soaking, make sure to shake the potatoes dry, and pat with a paper towel before placing in hot oil.

Step 2: Cheese Curd

While the potatoes are soaking, we can focus on the cheese curds.

Cheese curds are the fatty solids from soured milk. This un-aged cheese is plentiful in Quebec, and places like northeastern and the midwest of America. I had a tough time finding it in the Bay Area of San Francisco, eventually traveling to a rural farmers market and buying the local vendor out of his stock.

Curds are sometimes called "squeaky cheese", as they sometimes make a squeaking noise when rubbed up against your teeth when bitten into. Fresh curds squeak more than packaged curds, so don't be too put off if you can't find it fresh and your curds don't squeak.

Step 3: Gravy

I've had variations of poutine with thin gravy, thick gravy, turkey gravy, pure drippings gravy, and many more. Everyone has a preferred gravy, and you should, too. For me, I like a thick brown gravy. For ease of culinary creation I chose the powdered packaged kind.

Per the directions on the package, in a small saucepan I combined 1 cup of cold water to 1 pack of gravy mix and whisked together. Then, over a medium heat, the mix was stirred until it came to a boil. After, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes to thicken.

Step 4: Fry

I used a deep fryer to make my fries, but you can shallow fry or bake your fries, too.

deep fry:
Heat oil to 375 F. Dip the empty basket into the hot oil to coat the basket before putting in potatoes. Place a few handfuls of cut potatoes into the fryer basket, do not overcrowd the basket with potatoes as they will not cook evenly. Ensure your potatoes are towel dried before dunking in oil (oil and water do not mix).
Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the fries are golden brown.

shallow fry:
Fill a high rimmed pan about 1/3 fill of oil and bring to a medium-high heat (do not boil). Add small amounts of cut potatoes to oil and cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place cut potatoes onto sheet. Ensure potatoes are not overlapping and bake in oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

No matter how you cook your fries, once they are golden brown remove them from oil/oven and place into a large bowl and season with a sprinkling of salt. Toss the fries to ensure good coverage, then serve into a bowl.

Step 5: Assemble

After your fries are done it's time to assemble the poutine.

Start with a hefty bed of crispy french fries, then liberally sprinkle cheese curd over fries. After, smother with piping hot gravy. Cheese curds don't melt like most cheeses, so big lumpy masses are completely acceptable. 

Step 6: Feast!

It should be known that even though this dish is very popular in Canada, poutine is a plentiful plate to pound back. Poutine has humble beginnings in greasy spoon restaurants, but can now be found in all kinds of places. High end restaurants serve a versions with truffle oil and foie gras, and even fast food places are serving it up.

The best part about this dish are the variations possible. Some like it with a traditional twist of Montreal smoked meat, while others prefer an Italian variation served with marinara sauce in lieu of gravy. Any way you have it, poutine is a hearty bowl of Canadian goodness.

Bon Appétit
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