Poutine is a traditional fast food dish from Quebec that has its origins in the middle of the 20th century. It is among the local delicacies that must be tried if you visit, along with sugar pie, tourtière, pea soup and old fashioned sucre à la crème.
It is made from french fries, gravy and cheese curds. If that doesn’t sound appetizing to you, don’t let it put you off. Even the man who is said to have created the dish, cafe owner Fernand Lachance of Warwick, thought it was unappealing. In 1957 he was asked to make a customer a bag of french fries with cheese thrown in. He declared that would make a horrible poutine: an unappealing mixture of foods. The client explained that the cheese would melt, and it was tasty like this.
A few years later, when Lachance decided to sell the mix of cheese and fries in the Café Idéal, customers found the fries got cold too quickly. He began to serve the dish, still called poutine, with a side order of sauce that was used for dipping. Eventually some customers began to pour the warm gravy over the fries. The rest is history!
While poutine is served in numerous restaurants outside of Quebec today, what you order may vary quite a bit from the dish we get here. The recipe below is designed for people living outside Quebec, who can’t just walk into a grocery store to buy fresh cheese curds or poutine sauce in a can. It’s also a slightly healthier version than what you would get if you used canned sauce, or the reconstituted powdered stuff.
Fresh Cheese Curds: Possible Substitutions
This recipe requires fresh cheese curds, an unpressed and unripened cheese product that originated in Quebec. If you are unable to find them, substitute a local cheese with a high moisture content that will melt evenly. Mozzarella is fairly universally available, but you may find something more interesting at a local vendor.
You will notice no quantities are given, either for the cheese or for how much sauce to ladle onto each serving. This is very much a matter of personal choice. I like to make sure I get cheese and sauce with every bite, so I am pretty liberal. If you are trying to limit fat or caloric intake, you may want to use less.
Just as there is no such thing as “safe sex,” but only “safer sex” now, no poutine recipe is going to find its way onto a list of top healthy foods. However, this recipe has been adapted somewhat to make it healthier than the traditional fast food dish.
Enjoy with a smaller dose of guilt, but if you ever find yourself in Montreal do splurge at least once and try one of the many fat- and calorie-laden versions. One of my favourites is smoked meat poutine!
Homemade Poutine Recipe
4-5 large potatoes
30 mL (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 mL (½ tsp) each: chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper
1 ml (¼ tsp) mustard powder, or 5 mL (1 tsp) prepared Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 230ºC (450ºF)
Peel or scrub potatoes, and cut into fries.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil & seasonings. Add potatoes and toss well, so they are thoroughly coated.
Lay potatoes in a single layer on non-stick cookie sheets, making sure they aren’t too crowded.
Bake 20 minutes. Turn, and bake 10-15 minutes more until they achieve the desired colour and crispness.
500 mL (2 cups) chicken or beef stock
45 mL (3 tbsp) corn starch
30 mL (2 tbsp) tomato paste
15 mL (1 tbsp) red wine vinegar or lemon juice
5 mL (2 tsp) brown sugar
2.5 mL (½ tsp) Worcestershire sauce
In a small bowl, dissolve corn starch in a small amount of cool broth. Heat remaining broth with seasonings.
Thicken sauce with corn starch mixture, stirring often.
To serve poutine, lay out single servings of oven fries, topped with a generous helping of curd cheese. Ladle on sauce and allow the cheese to melt.
Leftover sauce can be refrigerated. Try it with beef or chicken!
“My Canada includes tourtière” CBC Digital Archives
“Le roi de la poutine” Office québecois de la langue française