ça va faire une maudite poutine
How to make a poutine? It can take 10 minutes, or, if you are up for the challenge, 5 hours. And the difference between the 10-minute and 5 hour type can be as great and as little as ready-bake cake and a grande torte. Somedays, you want the comfort-food of a ready-bake cake; and others, the culinary challenge of creating a transcendent example of la cuisine is what gets you out of bed and to the market at 6am.
The poutine from which all poutines are derived is the Classic Quebec Poutine -- fries, a peppery chicken Velouté sauce, and cheddar curds.
Cheddar cheese curd, from Fromagerie Lemaire
The classic poutine, invented in Quebec, and the example from which all poutines are derived, is a heap of crispy french fries topped by a handful of cheddar curds, and a chicken (or, sometimes, veal) based sauce. While great fries are important, it is the combination of sauce and curds which makes a poutine a trascendent culinary experience.
The classic, home-made Quebec poutine is a comfort food composed of well-established, but not widely available, brand components. The french fries can be cooked-up from Prince Edward Island potatoes ( Canada's answer to Idaho potatoes ) or tossed from a frozen-food plastic bag of McCain's brand onto cookie sheet.
The typical cheese curds are from the brand Frommage Beaucronne, and they must be absolutely fresh, made just that morning. Fresh curds are easy to identify, even to a novice, because they squeek, loudly and unmistakenably, when chewed. This squeeking is caused by their high humidity (47% is typical) and slight patina of oil, combined with their flexibility (which, again, is due to their high humidity) which causes the curds to slip and rub against the teeth. The squeek is unmistakable: if you aren't sure you're hearing it, you aren't, and the curds you are eating are more than a day old.
The Fromagerie Lemaire, a cheese shop and restaurant between Warwick and Drummondville
Of course, there are other, just as outstanding examples of cheese curds which can be had. In August 2005, I took a trip out to Lemaire (restaurant and cheese shop) out in Drummondville. The cheese has a constant line to the register, behind which were two girls, one cheerily scooping cheese curds into one of five different sized bags, as ordered up by the customer, and the other ringing up the constant stream of bagged cheese curds purchases. We grabbed a bag and ate right through it, a perfectly snackable, briny unripened cheese.
A bag of cheese curds, after your correspondent had gotten to it, from Fromagerie Lemaire
While fresh curds are vital, the most important part of the poutine is the sauce. At home, the province-wide standard is not a fresh sauce, but sauce from a pouch; specifically, from the St. Hubert brand. The St. Hubert brand is basically a thickened chicken-stock, seasoned with pepper, and a taste of onions. (French-trained chefs will immediately recognize the base as the standard Velouté sauce, with additions and modifications). Presumably, St. Hubert is well known due in part to its rotisserie chicken restuarants.
St. Hubert poutine sauce
Prepare french-fries, approximately 2 cups into a serving bowl. Drop 1/2 C of cheddar cheese curds on top of the fries. Ladel 1 cup of sauce (while hot) on top of the fries and cheese. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes, permitting the sauce and cheese to work together. Grab a fork, and enjoy!
Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan.
Combine the fat and flour, cook over high heat, stirring until you have a pale roux (2-3 minutes).
Whip the roux into the stock. Simmer (30-40 min), skimming the surface every 5-10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a chinois or strainer lined with cheesecloth. Salt and pepper to taste.
The above is the recipe for the Velouté sauce, which is the base for a poutine sauce. To make it into a poutine sauce, reduce it by a factor of 2-4 over medium heat. You can also try one of the following modifications: