|"Poutine", a fine "mess" and Quebec's gift to Gastronomy...|
or Gluttony as in this version from Au Pied de Cochon topped with Foie Gras
|Vieux Montreal, a perfect base to explore Old and New Montreal|
As New Yorkers, we’re inclined to feel that our city is superior to almost everywhere else on earth. And as far food goes, we’re the ultimate snobs. After all, there are now over 24,000 restaurants here Who can hold a candle to that?
|The Waterfront is now an Esplanade|
on the banks of the St. Lawrence River
|Montreal is called a City of Churches|
But those Anglos who hung in were really the lucky ones. They now live in one of the most fascinatingly diverse places on earth. They switch effortlessly from French to English. They live in a modern city with an award-winning subway system, phenomenal public spaces and a palpable sense of civic pride.
I say this in all honesty: We had not one bad meal in Montreal. In fact, we simply could not choose a favorite. As I drive north today, I still cannot decide where I want to go back to. But I do know that part of my food itinerary will undoubtedly find a place where I can tuck into a plate of these: Quebec’s truly original gift to the culinary world: Poutine. And what is Poutine? It is French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy. And it is absolutely delicious no matter what it sounds like.
|Back in New York, this is my take on Poutine,|
served here with a hangar steak and tomato
|A Palace to Poutine in Montreal|
If you want a taste of the perfectly delicious versions of the dish, we highly recommend this recipe from the phenomenally accurate view of Montreal in Gourmet magazine’s March 2006 issue. It takes a little effort but it will put the flavor of Quebec on your table, a flavor that I’m already nostalgic for.
|Beecher's Cafe and Cheese Shop|
The first hurdle was trying to find Cheese Curds in New York. While Gourmet suggests an alternative, Haloumi, I wanted to get as close to Quebec as possible. I scoured our neighborhood to no avail and then went on line where I discovered a wonderful new Cheese resource. It's Beecher's at 900 Broadway (Corner of 20th St) 212-466-3340. This phenomenal shop with its cafe and cheese counter is well worth a visit even if you are not in the market for Poutine. (I will say in researching where to find Cheese Curds, any number of people seemed to want them strictly for the purpose of making Poutine.) And I loved the shop’s description of what they are: "Cheese in one of its simplest forms. Lactic and slightly salty, these are tiny, squeaky hunks of immortalized milk". You can also order Cheese Curds on-line at www.beecherscheese.com. So as I head to Montreal for the real thing, I offer you this version that you can make wherever you are. Here, at last, is the recipe.
Recipe for Poutine, French Fries with Gravy and Cheese
8 cups vegetable oil
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
5 oz cheese curds or haloumi cheese, coarsely crumbled (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
1. Peel potatoes, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks and submerge in a bowl of ice and cold water. Rinse potatoes in several changes of cold water until water is clear. Drain in a colander, then spread potatoes in 1 layer on several layers of paper towels and pat very dry.
2. Heat about 8 cups vegetable oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 375°F.
3. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F.
4. Cook shallot with thyme in butter in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until shallot is softened and golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. While wine reduces, stir together water and cornstarch until cornstarch is dissolved. Stir 1 cup beef or veal demi-glace into wine and bring to a boil. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove the shallots and thyme. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and return to a boil, then boil until sauce is slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in black pepper, salt, and unsalted butter until butter is melted.
5. Once oil is ready, increase heat to moderate and fry potatoes in 4 batches, stirring occasionally, until deep golden, 5 to 6 minutes per batch, returning oil to 375°F between batches. Transfer fries with a slotted spoon to a baking sheet lined with several layers of dry paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Keep fries warm in oven while frying remaining batches.
6. Put 4 ovenproof plates in oven, divide fries among plates, and sprinkle with cheese. Heat until cheese is just warmed through, about 2 minutes. Stir chives into sauce and drizzle over fries. Serve immediately.