One of the best things about where I grew up was that we were just steps away from the Canadian border. We had lots of fun times with our neighbors to the north... some our parents knew about... some they did not. I mean, the drinking age was 18! One of the BEST things to ever derive from Canada is poutine. Now, a classic poutine is found at a diner type place and consists of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Over the last few years poutine has begun to pop up at finer establishments in fancier forms with ingredients such as short ribs or even with fois gras. I'm not opposed to these new, classier dishes but I do feel that maybe they could be given a new name. Poutine is supposed to be served in a dive on a huge plate with lots of grease... it's just the way it is.
Last weekend I was craving poutine and since it would take me over 6 hours to get the classic ingredients I realized I was going to have to make due. The fries I could easily do but I was going to have to be a little more creative with the cheese and the gravy. As long as the gravy is good and rich, it'll work so I found a recipe that included shallots, beef stock, and red wine. It sounded rich enough so I gave it a shot. The cheese was a challenge though. Poutine is traditionally made with cheese curds which are no where to be found in my hood therefore I went with original flavored baby bell cheeses. It was the closest I could think of to the texture and flavor I needed and I have to say it was a good choice. It melted a bit to quickly but the flavor was perfect! All in all I made a really great dish that I'm not sure I can confidently call poutine but I will happily call it French Fries with Gravy and Cheese.
French Fries with Gravy and Cheese
4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into about 1/2 inch thick fries
Vegetable oil, enough to fill a large pan about 1/3 full for frying
3 tablespoons minced shallot
2 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup beef or veal demi-glace
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
6-8 babybell original flavored cheese, unwrapped and cut into about 4 squares per cheese round.
Clean potatoes and cut into about 1 inch thick fries. Place in a large bowl of cold water and let soak about 10 minutes. Rinse potatoes until water runs clear and place on paper towels to dry. Dry off potatoes as much as possible before frying.
In a heavy bottom large pot heat vegetable oil to about 375 degrees. Once oil is hot fry potatoes in as many batches as needed so as to not overcrowd. Drain on a paper towel.
Cook shallot and thyme in butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat stirring frequently until shallot is softened and golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs. While wine thickens, stir together water and cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch dissolves. Stir 1 cup beef stock into wine and bring to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and return to a boil, then boil until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pepper, salt, and butter until butter is melted.
Place fries on a large plate and top with cheese and gravy. Heat in preheated oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees just until cheese starts to melt. Do not completely melt cheese. It should still have it's shape, it should just be soft. Serve hot.
Gravy recipe adapted from epicurious.com