It's time for my monthly post for The Great Canadian Food Experience Project where Canadian bloggers from across our nation write about a different subject each month. This month we are sharing our cherished canadian recipes. As I have said before, I didn't grow up eating anything particularly Canadian or worth sharing so it wasn't until I moved to Montreal that I discovered this regional cooking thing. I will be honest and admit that I lived there for over two years before I tried poutine. I was super health conscious and rarely ate fried foods or junk food and I kind of thought poutine sounded disgusting. Of course, one night - well wee hours of the morning really- after a couple of drinks I was convinced to try my friend's poutine.
Holy life changing experience batman. I am so happy that poutine has become "a thing" and you can find it everywhere now. You can find super fancy pants, gourmet poutine with stewed lamb shank , artisan virgin goat milk curd and deep fried organic potato frites, fried in duck fat imported from the south of France on foot. I like to go all the way from the highest high down to down and dirty chip truck poutine made with gravy. Poutine has become the catchword for anything that involves some sort of crispy potato, some sort of cheese and some sort of saucy topping to melt the cheese.
We eat things here in Ontario that are called poutine that are not really poutine at all. We eat a ton of fries with gravy that happen to have some sort of cheese thrown in there, often grated mozzarella or bright orange cheddar. The way I learned to make it in Quebec was NOT with gravy but with a veloute that they just called "sauce" (pronounced closer to Sowse) made with either poultry or veal stock, often with something a little sour in it, like vinegar which helps to balance out the richness of the dish. Traditional poutine will rarely use an actual red meat based gravy like they do here in Ontario. In fact, one of my favourite poutines can be found at Montreal Poutine in Old Montreal and their sauce is completely vegetarian and they use some tamari in it which is why I started to add the splash of soy sauce at the end with great success. I am also sure that there will be people who will argue with me about the gravy issue but I am only sharing what I learned from my Quebecois friends during my years of living in Montreal, who took their poutine sauce very seriously indeed.
Again, if you are not using cheese curd and it is missing the wonderful squeek that the curds provide, it's not really poutine. It's just fries with grated cheese and gravy which is also tasty but it's not poutine. The rubbery, squeaky curds don't actually melt, they just soften and pull out and get really gooey and chewy after you pour the hot sauce on top.
I am not going to get all fancy here and I am sure I will not be the only one to share a poutine recipe either but for me, poutine is as Canadian as it gets and I could not love it more. I don't deep fry at home so I make crispy oven roasted fries or wedges but if I can find nice fingerling potatoes, that is what I use. If you can use local potatoes and local cheese curds, it is absolutely BLEEDING fresh maple leaf blood. I like to get my curds from Ruth Klahsen at Monforte Cheese in Millbank. Okay, I don't drive out to Millbank for it because she sells her delicious cheeses at all of my local farmer's markets. Top your local cheese curds and thyme kissed roasted fingerlings with a chicken veloute and you have got yourself one delicious Canadian classic.
about 1 1/4 lb of fingerling potatoes
glug of olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
about ten sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbls butter
2 tbls flour
4 cups of chicken stock
splash cider vinegar (about 2 tsp and up to a full tbls)
dash of soy sauce
cheese curds (we used sheep milk curds but as long as they are curds you are good)
To make the sauce, melt 2 tbls butter in a pot and stir in the 2 tbls of flour. Cook the roux for a few minutes before adding in the chicken stock and the vinegar. Stir really well to make sure there are no lumps and simmer the sauce until it's reduced by half. When it's done, add a splash of soy sauce (just a splash) and set aside, keeping it warm in a covered pot on low.
Toss the fingerling potatoes with the olive oil, salt and fresh thyme (rub the leaves off the thyme and discard the stems).
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425F. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil, salt and thyme. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, shaking the pan a few times to prevent burning.
For each serving put some hot potatoes in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Scatter a handful of curds over top and then ladle over some hot chicken sauce.