Recipe and photo by Kris Matthewson
With the cold weather firmly settled in over the Finger Lakes, rich foods are finding their way out of my kitchen almost as fast as the snow piles up. It doesn’t get much richer than traditional Quebec Poutine (French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy). Poutine first started popping up in greasy spoon diners in rural Quebec in the 1950’s. There is some debate in Canada over the origin of the name–either meaning a sloppy mess, or a derogative term for a fat person related to the English word for pudding. Many local chefs have been adding poutine to their menus as well, with the FLX Wienery, Stonecat Cafe, Rongovian Embassy and Le Petit Poutine food truck standing out. When the weather makes it impossible (or just downright uncomfortable) to leave home, we make our own using this simple recipe:
1 cup beef stock (you can try turkey or mushroom as well)
2 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 or 4 medium-sized potatoes (Russets or Burbanks)
Frying oil (enough to fill you frying vessel leaving and inch or two for displacement)
Handful of parsley leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
To make the gravy, first you will need to make a roux. In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add the flour and stir until you have a medium golden paste. Add the stock to the saucepan and mix with a spoon until the roux dissolves into the stock. Cook over medium heat until reduced by about half. You want the gravy to be thick so it sticks to the French fries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Hold the gravy on low heat until your French fries are ready.
The French fries will require a two-step frying process. First, place the oil in a thick-bottomed pot over medium high heat. While the oil is heating, cut the potatoes into sticks of equal thickness–slightly thicker than a pencil. This will help them fry evenly. The oil for the first frying should be between 250º-300º. Check this with a thermometer. Add the potatoes to the hot oil until you begin to get a light gold color on them, making sure the oil stays within the 250º-300º temperature range. The first fry should take about 5-6 minutes. Take the potatoes out and allow them to cool to close to room temperature on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Turn the heat up on the oil to reach a temperature range of 300º-350º for the second fry. Just before you want to serve them, fry the potatoes a second time, adding the parsley this time. Watch for a medium-dark golden color on the potatoes. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Remove the fries from the oil, draining them over the pan to remove excess oil. Season with salt and pepper.
To put it all together, place the warm fries (and fried parsley) in a shallow bowl. Top with cheese curds, followed by the hot gravy. This should be served right away, with the fries and gravy melting the cheese curds. You’re probably going to want a fork and napkin as well.
Kris Matthewson is the winemaker at Bellwether Hard Cider and Wine Cellars in Trumansburg and an avid home cook.