From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I suspect that many of you have never heard of poutine. It's the French Canadian equivalent of comfort food and it's a favorite of our neighbors to the north, where some refer to it as the "National Dish of Canada." Poutine, by the way, is from a Quebecois slang word that means "mess". While it sounds dreadful, and doesn't look much better, poutine, a dish which consists of French fries that are topped with cheese curds and gravy, has crossed the border and has developed a committed following here in the United States. The exact origin of poutine is unknown, but as best as anyone can tell, it started in Quebec in the 1950’s, when cheese curds and gravy were added to orders of carry-out fries. A version of the dish known as "disco fries" was made in New Jersey soon after that, but it used shredded mozzarella cheese rather than the cheddar curds that identify the classic dish. The curds are finger-tipped sized chunks of cheddar that have a briny taste similar to that of cottage cheese. They are usually sold in a bags, and if you are fortunate enough to get them freshly packed, they will actually squeak when you bite into them. Your grocery store may carry them and they can also be ordered online. Poutine was once an embarrassment to the French-Canadian populations of Montreal and Quebec, where great value was placed on their reputations for high-end cuisine. They considered it to be a low-end rural food, but as homely cooking gained international recognition it became more acceptable, not unlike our mac n' cheese to which lobster and crab can now be added. While the correct "gravy" used to top the fries can be debated, it is most often shown as being dark and rich. I decided to use Emeril LaGasse's recipe because he used a roux to make his sauce and I suspected it would be delicious. It is, but it took much longer to develop color and thicken than his recipe suggested. I've included my times along with his in the recipe that appears below. He also blanched the potatoes before frying, which gave them a wonderful crust while allowing their interiors to remain soft as they cooked. I LOVE THIS DISH and were it not so high in calories I'd have it once a week. DO TRY THIS RECIPE. It makes a poutine that will have your socks going up and down. It is not expensive to make and it can be served as an appetizer or main course, depending on your sensibilities and the state of your waistline. Here is the recipe for this week's Frugal Foodie Friday feature.
Poutine...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Emeril LaGasse
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups beef stock
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Idaho white potatoes, peeled and cut into French fries
1/4 to 1/2 pound fresh cheddar cheese curd, crumbled
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1) Combine butter and flour in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to blend. Cook, stirring, constantly, to make a dark brown roux, 12 to 15 minutes. It took 45 minutes for my roux to turn a dark brown. Stir in stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. At end of 20 minutes, sauce was still very thin. I returned pot to high heat and brought sauce to a boil, stirring until it was reduced by half and coated a spoon, about 20 minutes more. Remove from heat and keep warm.
2) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and blanch for 4 minutes. Remove, drain and cool completely. Fry potatoes in hot vegetable oil until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
3) To serve, mound the fries on a medium serving platter.Spoon gravy over fries and sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.
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