Montréal Poutine

"ša va faire une maudite poutine"

Poutine Recipes

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.

Classic Quebec Poutine

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

So, if you have these ingredients - or acceptably close stand-ins - what do you do with them to make a delicious poutine? Here's what:

The Basic Combination of Poutine

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!

Different Styles of Poutine

The classic, home-made poutine is the standard upon all which all other poutines are based: fries, cheese, sauce. From this basic combination, an enormous variety has been acheieved in kitchens and resaurants across Quebec. Some examples:
  • Poutine Itallienne : Uses marianara sauce instead of the Velouté.
  • Poutine Bourguinonne : Adds ground beef and fried onions to the Velouté sauce, in Bourgennione style.
  • Poutine BBQ : Heated BBQ sauce is poured on.
  • Poutine Mole : With a wink, an Oaxacan black mole sauce slathers over the mixture, adding its wonderful smoke and chocolate sweetness.
  • Disco Fries : An off-menu item in New Jersey and New York diners, combines a chicken-gravy and shredded cheddar on top a plate of fries.
You get the basic idea. Try your imagination - pull out a favorite sauce, and maybe even try a different cheese combination.

Poutine Related Recipes

Velouté sauce

If you'd like a poutine sauce where you have a little more control over what comes out, here's a basic sauce which you can use as a base. While you could use it for a poutine sauce as described, you should at least add salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 quart stock: chicken or veal
  • 2 ounces flour
  • 2 ounces butter or oil

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:

Modifications :

  • Add 2 Tsp of pepper to the roux before adding to the stock, for an extra-peppery sauce. Floor-sweeping pepper (the kind sold pre-ground, in bulk) is preferred by classicists.
  • Add 2 Tsp of fresh ground green peppercorns to the stock while reducing.
  • Prior to adding the stock, dice 1 small sweet onion into the saucepan, add 2 TBsps of balsamic vinegar, and reduce.

Allemande sauce

Also called Parisienne, I ran into this first sauce at Au Pied du Cochon on Duluth near St. Hubert in Monteral, which uses it on its Poutine Fois Gras (a poutine with 100 g of fois gras), where they incorporate fois gras into the sauce as well. I also found it at "Coasters", a bar at the corner of Parc and Prince Arthur in Montreal, and was blown away by the simple addition of whole green peppercorns; I later tried the parissienne with peppercorn sauce on poutine at Dunn's, where the sauce was inferior, but the point is made: Allemande is a great addition to the poutine panopoly, and the addition of whole-green peppercorns is an inspired combination with the sweet curds and starchy potatoes.
  • 1 Quart velouté
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • salt, pepper to taste Reduce velouté by half over medium heat; reduce heat to low, and beat in yolks, butter and lemon juice, cooking until desired thickness.