Canadian Cuisine — Poutine: Fries With Gravy and Cheese Curds

Today’s Canadian table is what it is due to three main influences: French and British, whose empires colonized the country, and the First Nations, the Native American tribes that have inhabited Canadian lands for millennia.  Most Canadian meals would be recognizable in the United States, but our neighbors to the north have a few specialties of their own.  Montreal smoked meat is a pastrami-like deli meat that is salt-cured before being smoked, then sliced into sandwiches.  Maple syrup is a Canadian invention, developed by First Nations peoples of Canada’s Atlantic coastal region centuries ago.  If Canada has a national dish, though, it is poutine, a French-Canadian twist on French fries that tops the fried potatoes with gravy and cheese curds.

Canada quick facts:

  • Capital: Ottawa
  • Population: 35,344,962 (2014 estimate)
  • Notable Canadians: Frank Gehry, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Steve Nash, Robin Scherbatsky, Terrance & Phillip

Poutine came to be in the French-speaking province of Quebec sometime in the 1950s.  Naturally, several towns claim to be the dish’s birthplace, none of them with an iron-clad claim to the title.  It has become a nationwide phenomenon in the time since, available in fast food restaurants (even in Canadian McDonald’s and Burger Kings), at hockey arenas and movie theaters, and from sidewalk carts and roadside stalls.

We made our poutine on a weeknight, and time was limited.  As a shortcut, one of us set out for an order of French fries from a local fast food joint while the other got to work on the gravy.

The gravy was made using the recipe from Ricardo Cuisine, one recommended by several sources as typical of a Canadian preparation of poutine gravy.  We made a half recipe.

Once the gravy was made and kept warm on the stove and the fries arrived, we were ready to assemble our poutine.  First, a layer of fries:

frieslayer

Next, the fries were topped with a layer of cheese curds:

cheesecurlayer

Finally, the hot gravy was poured over everything, warming the cheese curds gently:

poutine

Eaten immediately, the fries stayed crispy and warm and the cheese softened slightly with the heat of the gravy.  French fries are fatty, starchy, unhealthy sticks of delicious already, and the addition of cheese and gravy takes it to another level.  Poutine is definitely a sometimes food.

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