Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Classic Poutine

Football season is here! And in my house, Packer games means Packer snacks (and now that I'm old enough, appropriate Wisconsin craft beer pairings). Packer games became a Sunday tradition with my dad when I was just a little girl, and although I've graduated from crying when the Packers lose, I still honor the football and snacking ritual I learned in my formative years. I wanted to start off this year with a bang (although apparently the Packers did not), so I decided to try my hand at poutine, one of my favorite indulgences. Although it is a French-Canadian dish in origin, poutine has Wisconsin written all over it. How a dish that features fresh cheese curds took so long to make its way to at least moderate renown in Wisconsin is beyond me, but I'm very glad it has. (The Coopers Tavern is my favorite place for poutine. I had to really resist the urge to dress it up right out the gate (my mind is filled a thousand ideas), but I thought it best to start with a basic recipe. In its easiest form, this could be made with store-bought gravy, curds, and fries, or in its most culinary permutation with homemade versions of all those things, but I struck a happy medium with high-quality frozen fries, fresh cheese curds from the farmers' market, and a homemade gravy based on a recipe from (a Canadian chef on) the Food Network. Springy and squeaky fresh curds are miles ahead of shredded cheese as a fry topping, the perfect contrast to crisp fries, all united under a blanket of silky gravy. This plate of pure savoriness wasn't quite enough to make up for the poor Packer performance, but sure did bring a smile to my face as I took my first bite the instant the kicker's foot hit the ball at kickoff (another tradition of mine). Though its roots lie in French-Canadian cuisine, this dish is more than at home in Wisconsin and the perfect snack for your next Packer party.

Classic Poutine
adapted from The Food Network
serves 2

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces frozen french fries
4 ounces fresh cheese curds, at room temperature

1. Make the gravy: Heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and beef stock, ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and make a roux, stirring until slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk the stock mixture into the roux and simmer until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, bake the fries according to package directions. Shortly before the fries are ready to come out of the oven, strain the gravy.

4. Divide the fries evenly between two shallow dishes; top with the cheese curds and gravy. Serve warm.

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