Potato

Poutine

April 16, 2021
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Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Sam Seneviratne.
Author Notes

The first time I had poutine, at a café in Montreal on a chilly spring afternoon, I couldn’t believe it was a “thing.” The french fries come covered in gravy, with cheese curds on top? I was hooked. Even though I’m from New Jersey, the land of “disco fries” (fries coated with cheese sauce or melted cheese, plus gravy), there’s something about poutine that’s just…remarkable. Poutine gravy has more depth of flavor than the average slop ladled over fries, as it’s typically made from scratch as opposed to a packet; the squeaky cheese curds bring a delightful bouncy texture to play with the crispy fries and silky gravy, which a straight cheese sauce, or even shredded cheese, simply cannot emulate.

The Oxford Companion to Cheese places poutine’s origin in the 1950s, at at a couple eateries in rural Quebec, where customers would sprinkle cheese curds, sometimes available on the counter with condiments or sold as a separate dish at the restaurant, into a bag of warm fries, also known as frites. Though it hasn’t been determined which restaurant actually put the dish on a menu first, the best story dates back to 1957, when a customer at an establishment known at the time as Le Café Idéal, was said to have asked for cheese curds directly on their frites, to which the restaurateur thornily replied, “ça va faire une maudite poutine,” or “that will make a damn mess.” (“Poutine” is Quebec slang for “mess.”) Still, the restaurateur obliged, and the dish eventually made it onto the café’s menu, where gravy was added to keep the fries and cheese warm, apparently. Or maybe it just sounded like it would taste good. Whether the origin story is truth or fiction, poutine remains an ideal snack.

To speak my truth, sometimes I use frozen french fries instead of making them from scratch (though here you’ll find a recipe for both oven-baked and stovetop-fried fries), and you should feel free to do the same if you’re in a pinch—I haven’t heard any complaints from taste-testers. —Rebecca Firkser

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • Poutine Gravy
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fries & Assembly
  • 2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 7), scrubbed and sliced into 1/4-inch matchsticks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Neutral oil, such as canola, vegetable, or grape-seed
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese curds (or low-moisture mozzarella), torn into small chunks, for serving
  • Poutine gravy, for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Poutine Gravy
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter starts to sizzle and foam, whisk in the flour and stir constantly until it’s smooth, smells nutty, and turns golden brown (the color of a cappuccino), about 4 minutes.
  3. Slowly whisk in the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced by about half, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, Worcestershire, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep at a low heat until ready to serve.
  1. Fries & Assembly
  2. For baked fries: Place cut potatoes in a bowl of hot water and let soak for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 425°F.
  3. Drain the potatoes and dry well on a dish towel. Divide the potatoes between two sheet pans and toss with 2 tablespoons oil each and several big pinches of salt.
  4. Bake, tossing halfway through, until the potatoes are browned and crispy, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. For fried fries: Place the cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water and let soak for at least 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
  6. Drain the potatoes and dry well on a dish towel. Set up a wire rack over a sheet pan.
  7. Heat 3 inches of oil in a Dutch oven or another heavy bottom pot over medium to medium-high heat until it reaches 300°F (you’ll likely have to turn the temperature up and down a bit to maintain). Use a slotted spoon or a spider to transfer half the potatoes to the pot and cook for 5 minutes (they won’t get golden yet!). Use the slotted spoon to transfer them to the prepared rack. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
  8. Turn up the heat and let the oil temperature rise to 400°F. Return the first batch of potatoes to the oil and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Return to the sheet pan and immediately sprinkle with a big pinch of salt. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
  9. Assembly: Transfer the hot fries to a serving dish. Sprinkle the cheese curds over the fries, then drizzle with warm gravy. Shower with lots of black pepper and eat immediately.

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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. Her writing has appeared in TASTE, The Strategist, Eater, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish and Basically. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl. She tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. You can follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.

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