Last year offered several opportunities to try new ways of cooking, but the one that stuck with me the most was learning how to fry. Not just sizzling a piece of fish in a pan with butter, but the real deal – deep frying.
I’d never been a fan of deep frying both from a nutritional and cooking standpoint. Nutritionally, I’m still not one, if it’s coming in mass quantities from drive thru windows. But at home, when you control the ingredients and frying times, it’s beginning to grow on me.
It’s also impossible to enjoy some of the best ethnic foods like Brazilian pastel, Filipino lumpia and Irish fish and chips without embracing a little deep frying in your life.
From the cooking side, I was scared. A vat of boiling oil still scares me, but I’ve gotten better at managing that fear.
I’ve learned that most people have a love or hate relationship with poutine. I think it’s probably the gravy. Mine has been a love at first bite. We tried poutine for the first time last summer on a trip in Toronto. I have to admit, I’m not a big gravy fan, but throw in cheese curds and French fries and I completely overlook that detail.
So I heated some oil and set out to make my first homemade poutine for New Year’s Eve. My version used some cheese curds we picked up in Petaluma. After opening the package, I was a little disappointed because they weren’t true cheese curds. As in the kind that are firm and resist melting in dishes like poutine. They were more like pieces of regular cheese that melted a bit with the gravy, but they were still pretty tasty.
The gravy in this dish is a simple combination of bacon and chicken stock. The fries are quick and easy, even when cut by hand. I dropped them in the deep fryer twice for extra crispiness. They’ll just need to soak an hour in cold water before you fry them so plan ahead.
Poutine has been hard to find despite all the foods we have access to here in the Bay Area. This recipe will prove to be the perfect solution when a craving hits.
Homemade Poutine with Bacon Gravy
4 medium potatoes, cut into fries, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
3 to 4 cups oil for deep frying (peanut, avocado or corn work well)
3 slices bacon, chopped
⅓ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp cornstarch (optional)
3 oz. cheese curds
Drain the water from the potatoes and turn them out onto a clean dish towel. Pat with the cloth to dry them well.
Heat the oil in an electric deep fryer or a 4 to 5 quart pot (the oil should not fill the pan more than half way to prevent the oil from boiling over). Heat the oven to 250 degrees F to keep the fries warm after frying.
Fry the potatoes in about 4 batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate covered in paper towels to drain the oil. Fry again for 3 to 4 minutes until evenly browned and crispy. Keep the fries on a pan in the warm oven while you make the gravy.
Heat the bacon in a medium, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to crisp. Add the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium and cook 2 to 3 more minutes.
Add the butter. Once it melts sprinkle the pan with the flour. Let cook for 30 to 60 seconds. Stir or whisk the flour and butter to create a roux. As you stir, gradually pour in the chicken stock. Return the heat to medium-high.
Stir the gravy occasionally as it heats and thickens. If your gravy does not thicken enough, in a small dish, combine the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water. Pour the slurry into the gravy and continue to heat and stir for 1 to 2 more minutes, or until the gravy reaches your desired thickness.
When ready to serve divide the fries into three servings, top each with an equal amount of cheese curds. Then pour an equal amount of gravy over each portion.