PhotoHunter: Hanging

The theme this week is “Hanging” (Next week’s is “Public”… did anyone spot that? Was the choice deliberate?)…

A few years ago, September 2008, we had gone for a drive and ended up in Richmond, Ontario. They were either getting ready for or were finished with the Richmond Fair. The town was done up in style and beside the chip stand (French fries, Poutine*, and other delicacies) I saw this….

Hanging squashes, Richmond

Hanging squashes, Richmond

"Biggest Pumpkin" float, Richmond

*Poutine, for the uninitiated is is Canada’s favourite heart-attack on a plate. But who can resist? What a way to go…

Basically, French fries topped with cheese curds, and gravy. No cheese curds? You COULD substitute white cheddar cheese but is just is not the same. You can’t skimp on the curds or the gravy and “industrial gravy” must be used with caution. The worst Poutine I have eaten was at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (which has the worst food, anyway). The best? So far, my favourite is at The Dairy Barn chip and ice cream stand in Kemptville.

Some would say the best are in Montreal. I haven’t eaten them in Montreal but since Quebec is the birthplace of Poutine… why not?

The actual origin of Poutine will be argued about for centuries to come but legends abound. My friend Lefty McRighty sings of the Great Poutine War of 1955 and who am I to debate the historical accuracy of his account? The CBC wades into the debate, on Q (podcast, about 2/3s of the way through). And it is pronounced “Poutin”, not “pooteen”, no matter how many “experts” mispronounce it. Marion Kane, Food Sleuth, interviewed on Q lays it out for you on her website.

I actually thought I invented it in 1970 and was surprised to learn that I wasn’t the only person to like cheese curds and gravy on fries…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Poutine
For those interested, there are many “different” recipes which diverge from the gravy/cheese curds basics and include vegetarian, “healthy” alternatives (why bother????), and “international’ versions. As far as I am concerned, they aren’t Poutine and don’t qualify as Poutine “variations”.And, for a while, McDonald’s offered a “poutine” on their Quebec menus which consisted of McD French fries, curds and gravy but Poutine requires home-cut fries and those need to be thick, not the thin McD-style fries. They need to be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and that calls for the traditional chipwagon-style of fry.

via Jerome's blog

To make Poutine you need:

  • potatoes
  • white cheddar cheese curds – if you don’t know what cheese curds are, you can try a roughly chopped mild white cheddar. Or you can make your own. The idea is to get chunks that melt but still stay sort of firm. DO NOT SHRED THE CHEESE!
  • gravy – preferably a home-style gravy and not an “industrial” gravy (the kind bought in huge cans or sold in powder form). Some people prefer a spiced gravy like those from St. Hubert chicken  restaurants (blecccckkkk!). I personally prefer a hearty chicken gravy.

The potatoes are thickly cut and let stand in ice water for about 10 minutes (other “purists” say let them stand in the air until they oxidize). The chips are fried  at a low temp until translucent, drained and allowed to cool, then re-fried at a higher temp until crisp.

Drain the fries, sprinkle the curds over the top (or you can distribute them throughout the fries, that way they aren’t all on the top. Pour on the hot gravy, enough to get right to the bottom of the fries…. enjoy.

Sprinkle with pepper, if you find you like it a little spicier.

And… NO… “Cheese fries” and “chili cheese fries”, while probably delicious in their own way, just are not the same.

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