Poutine: Canada's Favourite Food
The Glory of Poutine
Those who live outside of Canada may not be familiar with poutine. This dish is a surprising delicious concoction straight out of Quebec province that takes crisp, deep-fried French fries, liberally adds cheese curds and tops it all off with hot beef gravy to melt the cheese. The resulting gooey "mess" is the glorious dish we call poutine.
It may sound disgusting to some, but I've yet to meet anyone who's tried a properly made poutine who didn't immediately fall in love with the rich flavour and amazing combination of textures.
A proper beef gravy has the correct balance of flavour, texture and saltiness to unite the French fries and cheese curds into a harmonious dish. It is filling, and due to the richness of this dish, it's recommended as a side order instead of a main. (But, that never stopped anyone from ordering a large poutine from the chip wagon and making a meal out of it!)
Poutine in Mainstream Fast Food Restaurants
Chip wagons have cropped up from one end of Canada to the other, with the owners vying for the title of "Best Poutine." (For the record: My vote goes to Fergies Fries, located in the Giant Tiger parking lot in Pembroke, Ontario. Having read this over my shoulder, the hubby cast his vote with "two thumbs up" for their poutine as well.)
Poutine has become synonymous with Canadian culture and, as such, grocery stores carry canned "poutine gravy," and restaurants include it on their menus, even if only as an "upgrade" to their regular selection of "fries and gravy." Recently, this has included the big chain restaurants of McDonalds, A&W, KFC, Burger King and Wendy's. (For those who are interested, I've written a review of the Wendy's poutine.)
Accepted alternatives to this wonderful concoction include:
- Substituting shredded mozzarella for the more expensive cheese curd
- Using mushroom gravy instead of beef gravy
- Using chicken gravy
Personally, I find that mozzarella doesn't add the same richness as cheese curds, and alternative gravies tend to be too bland.
Having spread in popularity internationally, other variations include more . . . umm . . . "colourful" ingredients such as:
- Feta cheese
- Bolognese sauce
- Cheese Whiz
There are also meat selections that some people add, which include hot dogs, ground beef, chicken, salmon, foie gras, lobster and even caviar!?! One restaurant chain offers a version using melted Cheddar cheese and bacon bits, which seems like a nauseating excess of grease. I've also heard horrifying rumours of French fry dishes from the United States that substitute Ranch dressing for the gravy!
Don't be fooled—these are not poutine! True poutine includes only French fries, cheese curds (or the accepted substitute of shredded mozzarella) and gravy. Period.
© 2012 Rosa Marchisella