in search of the perfect poutine...

Poutine is the quintessential Canadian comfort food. French fries topped with cheese curds, covered with hot gravy, it satisfies like nothing else after a long, cold day on snow covered slopes or a happily sloppy night of bar hopping.

For many, the classic version of cheese curds and chicken gravy is holy, and should not be messed with. Bah humbug to the purist. Insisting on only a classic poutine and no other is like insisting on a cheese pizza only, or only sleeping on white cotton sheets. BORING. But for others (myself included), it is the lure of the satin sheets and the temptation of the variations that draws us out to the latest and greatest roadside truck, fry stand or wayside diner.

Everyone these days has a version of poutine - fast food chains and even four star restaurants - but what is it that makes a good poutine? It's a simple combination. Fries. Cheese. Gravy. In that order. Nothing special just an ooey gooey mess. Right? Wrong.

It's like saying that all pizza is the same - that the crust doesn't matter, the acidity and sweetness of the sauce doesn't matter, nor does the quality of the toppings, or even what kind of toppings are used. Fries are not just fries. Cheese is not just cheese and gravy is not just brown sauce that has been reheated in the microwave.

The key to a good poutine is the fries. Fries must be crispy and not soggy, medium cut - not thin like shoestrings, and not thick like homefries - and heaven forbid if there is a coating or flavouring of any kind except for salt. Oh, and they should be twice fried, if possible, so the gravy does not soak through as quickly and render the dish into a soggy mess.

Then bring on everything else - the squeaky fresh cheese curds, foie gras, the horse fat fries, the twice fried fries, the chicken gravy, the pasta sauce (for the Italian version), the Montreal smoked meat, feta cheese, American cheese, etc etc. Combinations are endless, but all worth a try.

personal rave: "dirty fries" - greek fry poutine with meat
where: alexandro at the food of qq & yonge

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