Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all of you Canadians and Canada enthusiasts!

July 1st marks a gigantic celebration for our northern neighbors, representing the momentous occasion in 1867 when Canada officially became a country. So happy birthday Canada!

Now personally, I love me some Canada. And one of these days, I'll make it up nawth to celebrate this fine occasion in true Canuck fashion, but for now I'll just have to be there in spirit.

In honor of our delightful continent-mates, I thought I would make a special dish tonight: Poutine!

"Well, what in le monde (the world) is 'poutine'?" you may ask. Think french fries with the comfort-food-o-meter turned WAY up. The fine people of Quebec have combined fries with gravy, and added fresh cheese curds on top for good measure. Now, seriously, who doesn't love Canada?

I also personally love the story that this decadent dish got its name when Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Quebec declared "ça va faire une maudite poutine ("it will make a damn mess")" Now, I don't know if that's true or not, but, don't you want it to be?

Traditional poutine is made with chicken or even veal gravy, and cheese curds so fresh (less than 24 hours old) that they actually squeak when you chew them. Now, you may think to yourself "Sacré bleu!, I thought that this was a vegetarian blog!"...and you'd be right. Tonight, poutine goes animal-friendly.

Poutine (vegan and gluten-free)
adapted from

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 oz (by weight) potato starch; You can use regular flour if gluten is your friend
  • 1 oz (by weight) oil or Earth Balance/margarine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sliced onions (I used half of a medium-sized vidalia onion); optional*
  • 2 button mushrooms, chopped finely with stems removed; optional*

Melt your oil/margarine in a frypan, and add your starch or flour. Mix and cook over low heat for 3-5 mins to make a light roux, which we'll use to thicken our gravy. At the same time, bring your stock to a boil in a small saucepan.

Once your roux is cooked and your stock is boiling, add the roux to your stock and whisk to combine. Turn the heat down to a simmer and then keep stirring until the desired gravy consistency is reached.

Next, use your frypan to sauté your onions and mushrooms in oil until the onions are soft. You can caramelize the onions if you want to, but you don't have to. I did and I really liked the extra flavor. The onions and mushrooms aren't exactly part of the standard recipe, but neither is vegetarian gravy, so I say just go with what you like. When you're done, keep your gravy warm until you are ready to serve it.

Cheese curds
Next, prepare your "cheese." I used Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella, but Tease brand makes a good cheddar or mozzarella flavor vegan cheese. These come in blocks or logs so you can chop them; Just use something accessible in your area that tastes good and preferably melts at least a little.

Chop your cheez o'choice into little chunks (maybe nickel-sized - Canadian or US!), and place on some parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Broil in your oven until melty and misshapen - for a more authentic look. Truthfully, I might have overdone it a little on the melting, but no harm no foul. There is no need to brown your "curdz", but, if it happens by accident, I won't tell anyone...; Now, leave your "curds" to cool and firm back up while you prepare your fries

French fries
Either bake up some frozen ones according to package directions, or cut and fry some Yukon gold or Idaho potatoes if you're feeling ambitious; If you make your own fries, I am going to submit to your awesome knowledge and not detail the process here.

Now, below I've listed the approximate the ratio of fries to cheese, etc according to You may choose to alter this according to your preference.

On a plate, place 2 cups prepared fries. Layer about 1/2 cup "curds" on top, then cover with about 1 cup gravy. And now, for those of us who do NOT douse their french fries in ketchup, here comes the tricky part...According to legend/purists/some websites I read, you are supposed to let everything "meld" for a few minutes before eating. Dear Lord give me strength to do nothing as my french fries become moistened...

Or alternately, if this sounds totally unappealing to you, put all of your ingredients separately on a plate and use a fork to get all of the components together. Heck, the US is on the eve of its own independence day this weekend, so have at your poutine however you want. Exercise ALL of your constitutional freedoms this weekend!!!

Happy Canada Day everyone, and Happy 4th too!

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