Saturday, March 10, 2012
As a missionary I spent two years in the Montreal area of Canada. In each city that I lived in, one of our favorite things to do was to try and sample the Poutine from as many different places as we could to determine who had the best. For those not familiar with Poutine, it's a combination of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. Sounds pretty simple but there are so many variations and favorites that you almost never get the same thing twice.
Montreal made it famous and while usually people have heard of it, I really don't see it available in restaurants anywhere else. In Canada, it is available everywhere, and I really do mean everywhere. Even a small town will have dozens of "Casse Croutes" or street side food shacks and even McDonald's and other fast food restaurants carry it.
The variations rest primarily in the gravy or sauce that's poured over it, but even how the french fries are cooked play a key role. My favorite variety were inevitably the ones that were double fried. This process involves blanching the fires for a few minutes in oil that is hot, but not hot enough to brown them, around 300 degrees. They are then drained and cooled for a few hours and then re-fried again at a hot temperature (375 degrees) to get them perfectly brown and crispy.
I've never been able to create my own gravy that matches any of my favorites from Montreal but this recipe came pretty close. My parents sent me a cookbook from one of the restaurants that we had visited back when I was in Connecticut last year and he had a recipe for Poutine that looked pretty promising. It's nice and rich and was a great base that I think is as good as I'll get to until I make it back to Montreal.
adapted from Caseus
4-5 large Idaho Potatoes
2 quarts oil, for frying
Kosher salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 pound fresh cheese curds
Scrub the potatoes and cut them into french fries, about 1/4 inch wide. Place them in a large bowl of salted water and let them sit for about an hour. Drain, rinse and let them dry.
Heat the oil to 300 degrees.
Add the potatoes to the oil in small batches and fry for 4-5 minutes or until they're soft but not browned at all. Remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for a few hours if possible.
Heat the oil to 375-400 degrees.
In small batches, fry the potatoes until crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oil and immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes until the roux becomes thick.
Whisk in the chicken stock and cream. Bring the liquid to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Go heavy on the pepper. Trust me.
In individual serving bowls, sprinkle some curds followed by french fries and more cheese curds. Pour the hot gravy over the top, wait just a minute or so to give the cheese a chance to melt a bit and then enjoy!