#PoutineChallenge – feat. My First Poutine

Living in Quebec (city) and not liking poutine is considered a crime by many true Québecois, and other poutine-lovers living in this province.

Honestly, I don’t know what the big fuss is about: deep-fried fries, curd cheese, and some type of brown gravy goop. To tell you the truth, the smell makes me gag a little. I used to know this one guy that worked in a poutine shack…literally a shack on the side of the road… and he smelled of poutine, oil and potatoes. Apparently that shack makes the best poutines in Hull, but I’m not the one to ask.

I’ve sat with multiple friends, sober/drunk/hungover, all eating this so-called delicacy wondering what the hell was so great about some artery clogging crap that they downed with most often, beer. Some would just laugh, others would say it’s because I’m an Anglophone, and others would proceed to explaining to me why it was God’s gift to the Quebecois.

Apparently, I’m just some loser from another province that cannot appreciate “fine foods”.

Then the girlfriend came along. She is the Poutine Queen. I remember the look of disappointment on her face when I told her that poutine was repulsive. We ended up agreeing to disagree, and that she could eat poutine whenever we went out because lets face it, I wasn’t making it for her any time soon.

In Quebec city it’s such a thing that they have the Poutine Week where local restaurants price a special contest poutine at 10$ and restaurant goers get to rate and choose a winning poutine. This year, it was La Souche’s poutine that won: red potato fries with fresh curd cheese from Lac-Mégantic with a local Pale Ale beer sauce and homemade beef jerky, all of which is topped with three huge balls of fried cheese with a coulis of their very own hoppy Bière-B-Q  sauce. According to the girlfriend, it was the best she’s ever had.

*gag*

Rewind to about 5 weeks ago, while out for drinks with friends. One of them had just come back from an exchange in Belgium, and the first thing he did was order a poutine, without even asking what the specials were. Why? He said that no one could make a poutine like the Quebecois.

I laughed and said something along the lines that Quebec is the land of silly rules, therefore, it is to be expected that they are the only ones that like this particular dish. Wrong thing to say when you’re surrounded by poutine lovers and their Queen.

I had to promise them that I would make a poutine and blog about it. If I didn’t like it, I’d be allowed to badmouth it, if not, I had to proclaim that it’s the best thing I’ve tasted so far. Challenge accepted.

First challenge: making it healthy.

No deep-frying for me, thank you very much. So I opted for oven baked medley of sweet potatoes and russet potatoes drizzled in a bit of olive oil and tossed with paprika and turmeric.

IMG_8785

Second challenge: the sauce.

Typical poutine sauce is like your typical gravy, made with beef bouillon or chicken bouillon and loaded with salt. I went with a vegetable broth, onions and garlic, and Glutenberg Blonde beer.If I was going to be making a poutine, may as well try to make it restaurant worthy. And that’s one downside for people that are intolerant or allergic to gluten: beer sauce. It’s everywhere and it’s hard to substitute when you don’t have the right ingredients. So a big thank you to the Brasseurs Sans Gluten for creating their Glutenberg beers. The list of ingredients are incredible (i.e: quinoa, millet, buckwheat) and the taste of their beers is fresh and crisp, everything that you’d want in a good beer.

source: Glutenberg

source: Glutenberg

Third challenge: the so called “squeaky cheese”.

Yeah. The rule in Quebec to make good poutine is to use “squeaky cheese”, ideally cheese curds that were made and packaged within 24h, and that can be left on the counter for 24h without refrigerating. It’s the key to a perfect poutine. I was VERY skeptical about having cheese left out on the counter for 24h, but I took the plunge. It really does squeak when you chew on them!

Once you have all three ingredients, you’re good to go. But you apparently have to be mindful of the quantities and ratios in order to be making “the perfect poutine”. Thankfully, I had the Poutine Queen help me with this.

Final results?

IMG_8792

I’d give it an 8 on 10. Why -2 points? Well, the so-called Poutine Queen managed to overcook the fries. Otherwise, I would have been satisfied.

My impressions?

I’m not willing to say that I’m in love with it, but I can understand the whole craving salty & cheesy when drunk. My only remark is that while my sauce was probably runnier than most that I’ve seen, I don’t think I’d be able to stomach thick, goopy, sauces. Just a tad too much to handle.

My goal was to create a healthier version of a classic Quebecois poutine, and I think I’ve nailed it!

What do you think?

To make the beer sauce, you will need

  • ½ a white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup Glutenberg American Pale Ale or Blonde beer
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 vegetable broth cube
  • Cornstarch

Start by melting your butter and oil in a sauce pot on medium heat. Then proceed to fry your onion and garlic until translucent.

Add in your beer and water and broth cube. When it starts to boil, add in your cornstarch, according to the package and continuously stir until it thickens. You may need to add a bit more cornstarch, depending on the amount of water and beer.

When it has thickened, remove it from the heat and it’s ready to be used. You can sift it to remove the pieces of garlic and onion, but they add a nice texture to the mix!

Top your fries with as much “squeaky” cheese that you want, then pour over your sauce, and there you have it!

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