How to Cook Poutine, Quebec’s Famous Dish

dive bar

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.

The Cheese

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 online casino 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.

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Super Snacks: Poutine Potato Skins

At Endless Simmer we’re a little obsessed with all thing poutine. We eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We haven’t figured out how to turn it into a dessert just yet (any ideas??) but breaking news…we now have poutine as a handheld appetizer.

The idea for poutine potato skins came when I saw that Mile End — the champion of our tour de poutine — was offering these as a take-out Super Bowl snack. I made my version for Super Sunday as well, but I’m pretty sure they make sense for March Madness, too. Or St. Patrick’s Day. Or Easter Sunday. Or a random Monday morning.

These aren’t actually so different from regular potato skins; you’ve just got to pair the spuds with gravy and cheese curds, the other two elements of the holy trinity that make up poutine. The biggest hurdle, of course, is finding fresh cheese curds. In New York, I tracked them down at Saxelby Cheesemongers. For the gravy, I decided to go a little more American than the dark gravy usually found on Montreal poutine, and went with a white bacon gravy. Since I had to cook up bacon strips to produce that gravy, in the end I crumbled them up and added that to the top of the skins as well, because…yeah, I don’t have to explain myself there.

Poutine Potato Skins

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NYC Tour De Poutine

poutine

It was during a visit to Montreal some eight years ago that I first discovered the glory that is poutine. This French Canadian specialty is a heart-stopping, gut-busting treat that somehow manages to out-America American food, topping crispy French fries with mounds of fresh cheese curds and thick brown gravy. Delicious. Frightening. Genius.

The dish is so popular Up North that it’s even served at McDonald’s in Montreal. Now it’s quickly proliferating New York restaurant menus and appears set to become the next Bahn Mi/Fried Chicken/obsessive over-the-top comfort food trend. So I set out to explore every New York restaurant currently serving poutine. With a little (OK, a lot) of help from some friends, I’m delighted to share this exhaustive report, along with the news that my internal organs appear to still be intact…for now.

Drunken Poutine: T Poutine

t poutine 1

The first NYC shop to make poutine the focus of their menu, this Lower East Side newcomer sees Canada’s challenge and raises it, offering artery-clogging options like the steakhouse poutine (topped with caramelized onions, blue cheese and thinly sliced steak) and the morning glory poutine (applewood smoked bacon and sunnyside up egg). The gravy (which also comes in a veggie version) is nothing to write home about, but this party-area spot, which is BYOB and open til 5am on weekends, is more about the alcohol-soaking extras. You can ramp your poutines up even further with add-ons like Essex pickles and panko fried cheese curds. 168 Ludlow Street, $7.25 – $9.50

Update: T Poutine has sadly closed

Everything Poutine: Corner Burger

corner burger

After returning from an eye-opening holiday trip to Montreal, the owners of this Park Slope burger and sandwich shop have updated their menu with an astounding 13 varieties of poutine. The Americanized takes—pepperoni, mozzarella and marinara make up the “pizza poutine”—are in our opinion unnecessary, but Corner Burger hits a home run with the hearty classic versions, such as “poutine galvaude,” a popular Quebecois take that adds shredded chicken and peas to the standard dish, which features a delicious housemade chicken gravy. 381 5th Avenue, Brooklyn. $6 – $7.50

Extra Cheese Poutine: Dive Bar

dive bar

This long-standing Upper West Side establishment has been serving poutine for years, and there’s nothing fancy or inventive about their take. (The bartender found it hilarious/adorable that I wanted to take a photo.) The possibly canned gravy is mediocre, but as you can see that’s not really the emphasis here. Dive Bar wins the most-cheese-curds-for-your-dollar award by a long shot, and gets extra props for the fact that the extra-crispy fries hold up well under all that weight. 732 Amsterdam Avenue, $8.

Next: The poutine only gets crazier…

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