Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rusty Coast Poutine

My DH is a strange creature with interesting ways of showing his likes and dislikes. Here is an example.
He has been known to make the rare disparaging remark about the Québécois. OK, maybe more regularly than that. Many of these notions are distilled from his tree planting years where he had to share ground with them. Or maybe it's just part of his crusty,young man routine. At the same time, we have plenty of Quebecois friends, some who are close friends. But it doesn't seem to deter him from making less than proper remarks that involve calling them by their amphibious slur.
He has the same distaste for cheese. Maybe it's the French connection. Not sure. But he hates cheese. He will go on and on about how gross cheese is. Usually when I'm enjoying a lovely piece of Hilary's ash-ripened goat cheese. He hates anything with cheese. Well, except for hard cheeses like parmasan and mozzarella that has formed a caramelized dome on top of a pizza.
So it's very strange that he loves poutine which is brimming with cheese and rural Quebecois flair.
He will order it whenever he has the chance and I usually keep my mouth shut. I'm not fond of poutine or at least not for poutine that has found it's way into food courts, fast food joints and Fraco-Canuck themed restaurants. They're usually made with a gravy that started it's life as a powder and it's cheese component is cheese 'curd-like' psuedo-dairy product which resembles the nasty by-product of wearing PVC underwear in a hot, humid climate than the lovely, squeaky snack favoured by Miss Muffet. What a horrible way to treat a french fry! Mon dieu!

I do have a fond memory of sharing a dish of poutine at a community gathering in Maillardville, in Coquitlam. It was a gorgeous blend of savoriness, gooiness and stick to your rib goodness.

Over the weekend, I found fresh cheese curds from Natural Pastures at the grocery store and I figured, 'What the heck. Let's whip up some poutine.' Natural Pastures is a local island cheese company. Hilary's cheese in Cowichan Bay also makes a great cheese curd.

(Miss Muffet's favorite snack)

Well, maybe not traditional poutine. I can't make french fries due to my lack of a deep fryer and a stove ventilation hood. I guess I could make it with pot of boiling oil and a poised fire extinguisher and make the whole house smell like a fry shop. However, as someone who grew up working in her family's restaurant and came home reeking like a grease trap, the idea makes me more nauseous than nostalgic.

So I made roasted potato poutine. I can hear the collective gasp of horror from out east. Vous ne pouvez pas faire cela! Ce serait inexcusable!

Well, too bad. I did.
I made 100 mile diet poutine. Here's how I did it.
There's three basic components of poutine. The french fry, roasted potato in this case, the fresh curds and the brown gravy. Here's my recipe for Fast & Dirty West Coast Poutine

For the roasted potatoes I used island grown baker potatoes. Stick with russets or other high starch potatoes. Simple cut them into cubes, tossed them with some oil and/or bacon fat, a sprinkle of salt and I threw them into the oven at 450F for 30-40 mins until they're crispy brown.

For the gravy, I used a couple cups of beef stock I found in the freezer when I was clearing out space for all those darn bagels. I made a roux which is nothing more than equal amounts of fat and flour cooked slowly over medium low heat in a small saucepan. I used a couple tablespoons of locally raised smoked bacon fat and a couple tablespoons of flour. You're looking for a thick pastey consistency. Cook the roux until it starts getting some colour. I aim for a nice golden brown colour. Once it's at that stage, whisk in 1-2 cups of boiling hot beef stock. Whisk until the roux has been incorporated into the stock. Bring the heat up to medium high and bring it to a boil. It should thicken. If it's not thick enough for you, you can throw in a cornstarch slurry. Throw in a couple drops of hot sauce to liven it up.

For the cheese curds. Open the container. Make sure you're using squeaky fresh cheese curds. No other cheese will do. If you even think of using processed cheese, you will be cursed with the worse case of lactose intolerance for a fortnight.

To assemble: The potatoes and the gravy have to be hot. It's their heat that helps melt the cheese. Simply dump the potatoes into a serving dish, sprinkle generously with the cheese curds and top with a healthy ladleful of gravy. If you're worried about the cheese not melting enough, you could always stick an overproof bowl with the potatoes and cheese under the broiler for a few minutes before adding the gravy.

It's a pretty simple. Because it has just a handful of ingredients, make sure that they're all of a high quality. Again, no freaking cheese strings.

To counter the heaviness of the poutine, we had mixed green salad from Nanoose Edibles on the side. The meal ended with some fresh locally grown apples and kiwi fruit.



1 comment:

Gina said...

Good Lord! That looks divine! I love Poutine!