Going Off the Deep End

Chez Ashton Poutine in Quebec

I remember my trip to Quebec where cheese curds were as common as Honda Civics are here in Vancouver.  Cheese curds would be sitting unrefrigerated near the cash registers at just about every grocery store and gas station, and I thought it was very strange.  It was equally strange to eat my first authentic plate of poutine and hear the delightful squeak of the curds rubbing against my teeth.  So, when I founds fresh curds at the Edible Vancouver Garlic Festival I thought I would try to recreate my francophone experience.

I can count the number of times I’ve tried to deep-fry on one hand.  It’d been one cooking method that intimidated me and I thought should be left up to the experts.  My previous experiences went something like this:  heat the oil, drop the food in, quickly retract hand to avoid hot oil splashes, then let out little yelps and jump back in fear as the oil pops and boils.  On one occasion, the pot had a small amount of water along with the oil, and the explosion was so volatile that I had to wipe the oil off the range hood and backsplash.

Naturally, I was a bit skeptical at how simple it looked on America’s Test Kitchen when they made their ‘Easier French Fry’ recipe.  The method used to make the fries was a bit unorthodox, because you put potatoes into cold oil.  I had to improvise a bit because I didn’t have the Yukon Gold potatoes that the recipe called for, instead I used russets.  I also didn’t have any beef broth, so I had to substitute with chicken broth.  Since the recipe said Yukon Golds were crispier, I lightly floured the russets to compensate.  To keep the oily fumes from lingering inside, I decided to cook out on the patio.

Easier Poutine (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen – Easier French Fries

 Serves 3-4

  • 1 1/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (cut into 1/4″ x 1/4″ sticks)
  • 3 cups cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cup Cheese Curds
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Dry off potato sticks with paper towel.  In a large bag, toss potatoes and 1/4 cup flour to coat.  Once the potatoes are coated combine with oil in a large dutch oven.

2. Cook potatoes over high heat until the oil reaches a rolling boil.  Continue to cook potatoes for about another 15 minutes without stirring until the edges become lightly browned.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt butter over medium high heat.  Add 2 Tbsp. flour and cook for about 1 minute while stirring quickly with a whisk.  Add stock then continue to whisk until it is combined.  Cook until thickened and cover pot with lid to keep warm.

4. Stir the potatoes, gently scraping off any potatoes stuck to the bottom of the pot for another 5-10 minutes or until the potatoes are a light golden colour.

Fresh Fries

5. Remove fries from pot.  Drain on paper towel and lightly season with salt.  Top the fries with the cheese curds, top with hot gravy and serve.

Considering it was my first time making french fries from scratch, it was a success.  One thing I would change would be the gravy, only because it was made with chicken stock.  It was a good thing I didn’t salt the fries too heavily, since the gravy and the cheese curds were salted, the fries didn’t need much.

Due to the fact that I topped potatoes with cold oil before I turned on any heat, I didn’t have to worry about screaming hot oil splashing back at me.  Cooking these outside on the patio was a great idea too, because the only odour that lingered inside was the rich smell of gravy.

Homemade Poutine

Not every single fry had crispy edges and creamy potato insides, probably because I used russets instead of Yukon Golds.  But, if I didn’t lightly coat the potatoes in flour it likely would’ve been less crispy.  I liked keeping the skins on because it gave the fries a rustic touch instead of a mass produced factory feel.  With the cold oil start method, the fries didn’t have a heavy greasy feeling like one would think either.  I definitely wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I think my attitude towards deep-frying is swaying.  Since I am not as afraid to deep fry, I will definitely be trying to make this recipe again.

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3 thoughts on “Going Off the Deep End

  1. Bravado Cooking for Men September 10, 2011 at 8:23 am Reply

    You don’t mention whether you like the dish or not. Should this be Canada’s national dish?

    • foodieonthe49th September 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm Reply

      Yes, of course I like poutine! As for national dish? I wouldn’t be opposed to it being named the dish of Canada.

  2. Sophia September 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm Reply

    Yummy post – pretty pictures. I love poutine. We’ll have to do a cold start deep fried french fry versus the double fry french fry method showdown sometime. We just did a single fry versus double fry comparison this week in cooking class and double fry won, the single fry didn’t even come close. Haha, I have to admit, I’ve cheated everytime on the gravy and always use Heinz beef gravy from the jar.

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