The appeal of poutine, fries slathered with gravy and cheese curds, didn’t speak to me much when I first heard of it. I have tried dipping my fries in gravy at local fastfood joints. It wasn’t anything I’d write home about. But a trip to Mama Lou’s, an Italian restaurant owned by a French-Canadian, changed my mind at first bite. It was hardly the poutine I had read about. This had mozzarella and not cheese curds, but my mouth didn’t discriminate and accepted the dressed up fries before me, wholeheartedly. Besides, their version had bacon. When did you ever hear me complain about bacon?
The idea of such a simple combination marrying into a plateful of satisfying flavor and comfort converted me into a rabid fan, that I passed on the obsession to friends and family. To this day, we can’t go to Mama Lou’s without starting with poutine.
But a recent obsession with sauces (bechamel, brown sauce, anything that began with a roux) made me try my hand at poutine, and while it isn’t really authentic, the fact that I could make a bastardized version in my kitchen for eating any freaking time I wanted was gold. Hence the title mock. I wouldn’t want any Canadians throwing potatoes at me for using anything other than cheese curds. And for that matter, I’m labeling the gravy as mock too because I don’t use pan drippings. But this version works for my family so, yay, go me!
I start my mock poutine off by frying store-bought fries. I pick thickly cut ones, like Belgian or crinkle-cut, for the best crisp outside, mealy inside combination. Feel free to go homemade with hand-cut fries from scratch, but let me go with store-bought for this one because I’m usually too desperate to eat. This is the it’s-2am-and-I-want-poutine version, hence the shortcuts and pantry staple switcheroos.
While the fries are frying, I heat up the butter in a saucepan. Once it’s melted, I whisk in the flour until it’s blended and they do the happy bubbly dance otherwise known as roux. Then, I add either beef stock or water in little amounts, whisking the whole while as it thins and thickens with each addition. Beef stock makes for a heartier flavor, but in a pinch, water will do. Whisk in soy sauce for color and flavor. Taste. Season with salt if you like. Or Knorr seasoning. Pepper if you want it with a bit of a bite. Feel free to follow your tastebuds.
After the fries are cooked, you can slather it with hot gravy, then top it with fresh cheese curds if you’re one of the lucky few who either has a supplier, or knows how to make it from scratch. I’m neither, so it’s mozzarella for me. Here’s the thing. You can do it like you would classic poutine with everything heaped on top of each other in a gooey pile that hits your heart with goodness in every bite. Or you can turn it into a poutine dip like I’ve been doing lately. Heck, I’ve already bastardized the cheese and gravy, what’s an additional iteration, right?
I take a shallow dish and spoon my gravy over it. If it’s hot enough, the mozzarella will partly melt of its own accord. If it’s not hot enough, I nuke it for a few minutes in the microwave, until I get a glorious, gooey, river of gravy and cheese that enrobes each crispy fry you dunk in it with goodness. If you like your fries staying crispy and the gravy and cheese distributed evenly during the whole exercise (so OC of me, I know), do it this way. If you like the heartwarming goodness of a messy bowl of poutine, just slather it all on top. Either way, you have your potatoes, gravy, and cheese in a loving embrace, so it’s happiness all around.
v. 6 August 2015
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup beef stock or water
- 1.5 Tbsp soy sauce
- salt to taste
- Melt butter in pan.
- Whisk in flour until it mixes evenly and bubbles.
- Pour in stock or water a little at a time, whisking as you go. It should thicken to a gravy-like consistency. Heck, it is gravy.
- Add soy sauce to color and taste.
- Season with salt if you like. A few drops of seasoning (Knorr) works too.