November 16, 2012

Poutine, mon amour

Hellooooo out there. My apologies for the long absence.

I've been busy working on my thesis film about genetically engineered foods and just returned from a long hard shoot in San Francisco where I was filming the vote on Proposition 37 (the one to label GMOs). The proposition was defeated by a slim margin: 47.2% (voted yes) to 52.8% (voted no). I could write a very long blogpost with my thoughts on it all, but for now (just for now), I'll spare you all as I digest what I've just experienced and reflect on how to thoughtfully put it all into a film worthy of contributing to the debate. 

In the meantime, there is poutine to talk about. 

It's been quite thrilling to see that over the years, the awesomeness of poutine has gradually overflowed beyond the borders of my birth province of Québec, into other Canadian provinces, and even charmed its way into our neighbouring states to the south. I love it when the tables are turned and Americans get to eat Canadian fast food! I was pleased to see when I first arrived in Maine that most people not only knew what it was, but also had an appetite for poutine. I even ordered one of those uber-trendy gourmet foie-gras poutine at my favourite local restaurant (thought I died and went to heaven). But what caught me off guard, and confirms that poutine is successfully wooing the world over is that people as far away as San Francisco knew what it was. In my missionary-like efforts to spread the deliciousness onto other continents, I even once made poutine entirely from scratch while visiting friends in Tunisia. There are few things that make my Québecois pride and patriotism truly shine through. But poutine is one of these.

Granted, the idea of greasy French fries smothered in brown gravy and cheese curds does not appeal to everyone. It is um, on the heavier side of the spectrum to say the least. But I grew up on this stuff. I fondly remember walking with my mom and baby sister to the Cantine d'Amour, when we lived in Matane, Québec, ordering their biggest poutine and eating it on the spot. Later, when my family moved to Nova Scotia and the wonder of poutine hadn't hit those shores yet, my mom would make it at home and we would have Québec nostalgia. 

Since we harvested our potatoes this week, I figured it was an opportune time to make some homemade (GMO-free!) poutine. Especially since my boyfriend's dad pointed out where I could find what may be the finest and freshest cheese curds in Maine. So all that was left was a good gravy. And luckily for me, Saveur magazine just put out this fabulous video showing how to make a perfect vegetarian gravy, featuring the lovely Todd Coleman. (I'm not vegetarian so I cheated and actually used some organic chicken broth I had kicking around instead of water, but otherwise, I stuck to this marvellously rich and flavourful recipe. Thank you Saveur!)

POUTINE (The 3 building blocks)
-A couple pounds of the best French fries possible 
(yes, this means homemade, trust me it's worth the time and effort...  but if dire, and I mean really dire, circumstances are preventing you from being able to make your own, then ok, you can use the frozen ones from the store... or if French fries aren't your thing, simply use baked potatoes instead)

-About 1 pound of the freshest squeakiest cheese curds 
(in a pinch, grated mozzarella will do, but it won't be the same)

-About 3 cups of good thick homemade gravy 
(the stuff from a can should only be used under dire conditions, otherwise, to be avoided at all cost... get experimental with it too: there are some great gravy recipes out there such as ginger miso gravy, onion guinness gravy...)

Even though most French fries recipes suggest using Russet potatoes, I made ours with a variety we grew called Purple Viking, fried them up in peanut oil, and they turned out great. The amounts of fries, gravy, and cheese are really up to personal taste. The cheese curds should be covered in piping hot gravy so they melt. That's about all the poutine wisdom I have to share...  Just combine the 3 ingredients together on a plate, and enjoy!