A few years back, Scott and some friends went to Whistler, British Columbia for a ski trip. While there, they discovered the wonder that is poutine. After their first discovery of this seemingly odd combination, they decided to discover it another two or three times, y’know, just to ensure the entire Whistler village held exacting standards for poutine.
Since Edie had never experienced this delicious combination, we decided that it was next up on our list of regional specialty foods while crossing through Canada.
Okay, first things first. How do you pronounce it? As you know, we’re from Kentucky. That alone is a detriment when it comes to pronouncing French words. Seriously, in Kentucky there’s a city spelled Versailles and pronounced “ver-sales”. If you ask someone to direct you to “ver-sigh,” you’ll likely get blank stares and a declaration that “y’all ain’t from ’round these parts.”
On top of that, neither of us has much understanding of French, so our initial pronunciation of the word was “poo-teen”. But in reality, we’re told that it’s pronounced “poo-tin” or something close to that.
What Is Poutine?
At its most simple, poutine is simply French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. Of course, the culinary world is never one to leave well enough alone, so you can get poutine with any and all manner of toppings, from bacon to foie gras and three-pepper sauce to Bolognese sauce.
While it sounds like a weird combination, we think of it like this. You’d eat cheesy mashed potatoes with gravy. This is essentially the same thing except the potatoes are fried and the cheese used is cheese curds. Even if it still sounds odd, go with the “don’t knock it till you try it” mentality. You’ll probably end up having it more than once.
To make top quality poutine, you want medium thickness French fries with a soft inside and crispy outside. The gravy is usually a light chicken, veal, or turkey gravy with some mild pepperiness or a beef-chicken stock combination. The best poutine uses the freshest cheese curds, the kind that still have the proper squeak. Typically, you’ll want curds that are less than one day old. For texture perfection, top the hot fries with cold cheese curds, then add the gravy just before serving.
While we can’t attest to the effectiveness of it, poutine is supposed to be an excellent hangover cure.
Where Can I Get Poutine?
Well, really, you can get it most anywhere, though Quebec is the original region. In Lethbridge, Alberta, there’s a place called Red Dog Diner where we took the opportunity to have some original poutine and poutine with bacon. Of course, we only had two types for research purposes. We’d never do that of our own volition, but since we feel the need to give you a complete overview, we did it. For you. Aren’t we sweet?
So you can get poutine in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago. You can get cheese curds and buy or make beef gravy to top French fries with at home. Basically, if you’re in a major city, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding poutine. It might not be quite as authentic as real Montreal poutine, but fries covered with cheese and gravy will never be “bad”.
Your turn…have you ever had poutine? Do you like it?