Sometimes only chips will do. And after a Friday night that saw tvdinners and I literally drink Seven at Brixton dry of basil and ginger mojitos before giving Kaff Bar’s excellent £3 version a go, I not only needed chips. I needed turbo charged chips. It seemed like the moment my entire life had been wating for to try poutine…
For those of who wondering what kind of shenanigans that is, let me elaborate. Poutine is the unofficial dish of Canada, a religion in Québec, especially Montréal and known elsewhere as chips covered with gravy and cheese curds. It’s not pretty dish, but it’s a glorious mix of carbs, grease and fat best served piping hot and after alcohol has been consumed. A grown up gravy chip.
I’ve never seen it served here and it might seem like a right faff to go to, but luck and a certain amount of planning made it fairly straightfoward. The seemingly tricky bit is the cheese curds. I already had the rennet from previous cheesemaking exploits and have discovered that even the little Sainsburys in Brixton sells unhomogenised Jersey milk. So fresh they squeak cheese curds were only a few minutes away.
While the spuds for my chips parboiled, I scalded the milk, added the rennet and let the curds and whey develop. Dry the curds off in a cheesecloth or muslin and turn your attention to the chips. Having drained the chips, I couldn’t be bothered with all the stages Felicity Cloake suggests here and fried them for five minutes at lowish temperature, before draining on kitchen paper and allowing the oil to get really going.
I’d roasted a chicken earlier in the week and by some feat of willpower had the juices left to make gravy with. I thickened it up with cornflour and heated it up. I broke the curds up a bit more with a fork and let drain well before batch frying the chips til very golden. I personally loathe an anaemic chip so relished the opportunity to get these good and Ronseal brown in the hot fat.
At this point I cannot claim how authentic my poutine was. I dusted the chips with salt and pepper, poured the gravy over and then added the curds. I should have done the curds first and then the gravy to make sure the cheese melted more, but I was too hungry to be too bothered. I got stuck in.
And zut alors, I can see why the Quebecois love this dish so much. It’s simple, it’s tasty, it’s filling. It’s soft and crunchy at the same time and cries out to be eaten quickly and while piping hot. The cheese curds melt more like mozzarella than cottage cheese and add a creaminess. The squeak is a little bit like halloumi and the whole thing works like a charm. I loved it.
I’m entering poutine in the Hall of Fame of chip dishes immediately. You might be able to fiddle with it to make it veggie, but my advice is keep it simple and make a date with the dish as soon as you can. The Canadian embassy should start a poutine joint for post pub Saturday nights in the West End. It’d attract more people to visit Canada than all the maple leaves in the world…