How to Cook Poutine, Quebec’s Famous Dish
An emblematic French Canadian meal, poutine was invented in the mid 1950s in rural Quebec–and no one agrees on who, exactly, came up with it first. But one thing’s for sure: poutine is delicious. Here are tips on how to properly cook it at home.
First things first: What is poutine?
Poutine got more popular in the last few years, thanks to chefs such as Brian Henry and Martin Picard, who started treating it like the delicacy it truly is and brought it to a broader audience. Poutine is quite simple and humble, and is just the assemblage of three ingredients: French fries and fresh cheese curds, topped with a thick, hot, tasty brown sauce. Voilà.
Cooking Poutine: The Fries
Ideally, you would pick Idaho or Russet potatoes: their taste and texture suits the poutine best. Cut them according to your preferences: I, for one, prefer small, crispy julienne fries, so I cut my potatoes in little sticks no larger than ¼ of an inch. But larger fries are good too. Fry your potato sticks in peanut oil until done.
Now this is a tricky one, for good cheese is key to great poutine. And cheese curds, for some reason, are not easy to find, depending on where you live. Here, in Quebec, you find them in almost every corner store, wrapped in little plastic bags. But elsewhere in Canada, it is not necessarily the case, and it is even worse in the States. Ask at your local cheese factory for information on where to get a hand on fresh cheese curds. Or, if you are up for it, you can even make your own.
In order to have the best poutine possible, the cheese curds have to be extra fresh. How can you tell a fresh curds from a not-so-fresh one? A fresh one is looks kind of oily and squeaks notably when you chew it.
Poutine sauce is gravy-like, but it is not exactly gravy. If you pour pure gravy on fries and cheese curds, you won’t really get a true poutine. To get a true poutine, French Canadian style, you’ve got to have poutine sauce. Trust famous French Canadian chef and TV host Ricardo, and follow his recipe.
Assemble Your Poutine
Make sure your fries and your sauce are super hot and that your cheese curds are at room temperature. Put your fries in a bowl–don’t pick one that is too deep. A pasta plate is great. Sprinkle the cheese curds evenly on top of the fries. Pour the hot sauce on the curds and the fries generously–but make sure you don’t drown your poutine in sauce, for it’ll become soggy. Enjoy!
There are endless variations of the poutine. The most famous ones in Quebec are the poutine galvaude, topped with green peas and chicken, or the Italian poutine, with spaghetti meet sauce instead of brown gravy-like sauce. More recently, Martin Picard, a Montreal chef came up with the foie gras poutine. Needless to say, it became a classic and it is the quintessence of fatty, greasy goodness.
Once you gathered the three key ingredients, you can do whatever you want. Sautéed onions and mushrooms are great on a poutine, as well as bacon bits or ground meat. Just have fun with it and create your own, personal poutine!
Mireille is a travel, music and theater enthusiast. She wrote for the stage and television, and is now working as a freelance blogger for Tourism Montreal an organism that provides hotel suggestions and recommendations in Montreal.