Today we are going to take a deep dive into a dish that is as Canadian as maple syrup, ice hockey and saying “sorrey.” That dish is poutine.
Over the past few years, poutine has been gaining a bit of mainstream success in the United States culinary scene. However, there are many imposter poutine dishes out there that do not give the proper respect to this wonderful invention by our neighbors up north.
Let’s start by going over the basics. Every poutine MUST have these three crucial ingredients, no “if’s,” “and’s,” or “but’s” about it. If a poutine-like dish does not include these, then it is not poutine:
1. French Fries 2. Gravy 3. Cheese Curds
French Fries: The base of a poutine is always french fries. French fries can come in all shapes and sizes. You have the steak cut fries that you might see at a Red Robin, the flimsy, greasy fries that everyone has come to know and love from McDonald’s, and the crisp-ridged fries (that appear to almost not have potato in them) from In-N-Out. But for us, the ideal fry for a poutine would be the Five Guys style. This style of fry combines the texture of a good McDonald’s fry with the structure and strength of a steak fry. These are ideal for poutine because you need a fry that is going to be able to stand up to the weight of all of the delicious toppings you add on top.
Gravy: Gravy preference has been a long-debated topic across countless Thanksgiving dinner tables, and it will continue to be until the end of time. There is the camp that prefers lighter, more watery gravy, while those in the other camp like their gravy dark and thick. We think the ideal gravy for poutine is somewhere in the middle of the two camps. You want a gravy that is rich and flavorful, but you do not want it to overpower the other elements of the dish.
Cheese Curds: This may be the biggest make-or-break element of a poutine. There is absolutely nothing worse than a cold, styrofoam-textured cheese curd. A good cheese curd should slowly melt as it heats up from the steam of the gravy and fries. If the cheese curds are cold or chewy in the mouth then you are for sure having poser poutine.
Other Popular Add-Ins
Once you have the three core elements settled, there is an infinite number of other toppings and styles that can be added to the poutine dish. Meats always go great with fries and gravy, so popular toppings include:
– Pork belly – Bacon – Pulled pork – Or in true Canadian fashion, smoked meat
Poutine – The Bottom Line
Poutine was first created in the Quebec region of Canada, so if you want the best stuff you have to go to the source. Montreal and Quebec City are both filled with countless poutineries that will surely satisfy the soul. Even the Five Guys in Montreal have poutine, and as you would expect, they knock it out of the park. If you can’t make it to Quebec, the international chain Smoke’s Poutinerie has 40+ varieties, from Korean-inspired poutine with kimchi to a Philly Cheese Steak poutine. As far out as these flavor combinations might sound, it is all grounded by strong fundamentals.
Whether you are splitting it as an app or having it as drunk food at the end of the night, there isn’t a bad time for poutine.