While Canadians may not be able to take credit for world-class foods like sashimi, guacamole, or lasagna, we do have one dish that we can proudly claim as our own: French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy – otherwise known as poutine.
While its hometown is in dispute to this day, one thing’s for sure. Our country’s much-loved dish is definitely Quebecois. Created in the 1950s or 60s, poutine got its name from the French slang for “mess.” And for decades, it was just that. A delicious mess to satisfy growling stomachs after hockey practice or hungry college kids in the middle of the night. And it was cheap too. A plate at the local greasy spoon could go for as low as $5. It’s safe to say poutine came from humble beginnings.
But as this splendidly sloppy snack spread from its native Quebec to francophone areas in other provinces to big cities across Canada, its popularity rose slowly—but surely. With the 21st Century came a newly elevated status. (I imagine some of the best Canadian chefs holding a secret meeting, during which it was decided that this delicious dish would no longer be condemned to a life of fast food.) Soon, poutine was featured on menus at some of the finest restaurants across the country. On one condition, it seemed. The poutine had to fancy up its image.
Foie gras poutine. Curry poutine. Truffle poutine. Pulled pork poutine. Kimchi poutine. Lobster poutine. Sound familiar? That’s because these prettied up versions of our national favourite now decorate menus across the GTA.
A $5 dish no longer, poutine has transformed from fast food to fabulous feast. From frog to prince, some might say. Once a beautiful mess, our nation’s beloved dish is, at times, almost unrecognizable. But still, it will always be ‘just poutine’ to me…
by Kathleen O’Hagan
Gourmet Goat Cheese Poutine
- 6 Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 shallots, diced
- 170g goat cheese
- 1 bunch chives, chopped
- Pinch salt & pepper
- 6 cups vegetable oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1/4 cup port
- Slice potatoes french fry-sized pieces.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and boil fries for 30 seconds. Drain immediately and place on a dish-towel-lined tray to dry them. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
- Heat butter in skillet over medium heat and cook shallots until softened but not coloured.
- Place goat cheese in bowl and stir in shallots, chives and black pepper.
- Heat oil in wok or deep fryer to 300ºF.
- Add potatoes in batches (oil should bubble gently). Cook about 6 to 7 minutes or until soft but not coloured.
- Drain well and place on paper
- Reheat oil to 350ºF and fry potatoes again in batches for another 2 to 3 minutes or until golden coloured.
- Put in paper-towel-lined bowl and toss with salt.
- Lay fries in the middle of the plate and crumble goat cheese all over them. Pour the sauce over the fries.
- Place shallots and red wine in a skillet.
- Heat to medium-high heat and cook wine until 1 tbsp remains.
- Add stock and bring to boil.
- Boil 5 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup.
- Add port and boil again until sauce begins to thicken slightly, about 4 minutes.
- Strain out shallots, pressing down on them to extract as much sauce as possible.