Friday, March 11, 2011

Poutine: a recipe

Wow. So apparently poutine doesn't photograph all that well...

If you've never heard of it or eaten it, poutine is a comfort-food dish traditionally made with french fries, topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. It is native to Quebec, although it has trendily been popping up all over the place in the past few years.

It's diner food, Quebecois style.

I first tried it last summer during a vacation in Canada and immediately became obsessed. Its salty, gooey goodness is a little hard to describe, given how nasty it looks in photographs. (It's not just mine -- do a Google image search on poutine and you'll see what I mean. Also note that Vladimir Putin shows up right next to all those cheese curds -- hilarious.)

When I came across a recipe for (modified) poutine in Eating Well magazine, I freaked out: here was my chance to get a regular poutine fix without packing on 30 pounds!

And the results were really, really good. My husband has had the good fortune (well, maybe not so good for his waistline) of eating a lot of poutine in Montreal over the past few months and he thought this version tastes just as any good poutine should.

In French slang, the word "poutine" apparently translates as "a mess" -- while that is definitely what it looks like, I beg you not to judge this tasty book by its homely cover.

Oven-Fry Poutine with Mushroom Gravy (adapted from Eating Well magazine)

Note: I made this recipe with beef broth but using mushroom broth, as indicated, would make it a nice vegetarian dish.

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, cut into quarters
extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups beef broth or mushroom broth
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine potatoes, 2 teaspoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice, until the potatoes are tender and browned, about 25 minutes.

Whisk 1/2 cup broth and flour in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion and sautee about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup broth; bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by about half, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the flour and broth mixture to the pan; cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Stir in chives and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Put the potatoes into individual oven-safe dishes and top each with an equal portion of the cheese; bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Top each portion with gravy and serve.

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