Thank you, Quebec, for marrying gravy and the french fry and smothering their holy unity in cheese.

How do I make Canada’s favorite bar food?

If you’ve never had or heard of poutine, it might sound a little strange at first. French fries with gravy on it? And cheese? Does all that really go together? Yes, yes and yes. As I live in Dallas, there are not a lot of establishments that serve poutine. I first had this wonderful dish in Denver at a restaurant that I don’t remember the name of, but we went there for the duck poutine specifically and, specifically, that is the only dish I remember from the meal. Poutine is typically a “greasy-spoon” and pub type of offering, but it has as of late found it’s way into the gastro-pub scene all gussied up with fancy ingredients, like duck fat fries. Given Canada’s hunting culture, I am definitely not the first to make a venison poutine and I certainly won’t be the last.

venison poutine

Eat with your fingers, or a fork if you’re feeling civilized.

So basically what you do is make a stew (using stew meat that is cut on the small side), reduce it enough so it’s thick and then add a roux. It’s really not all that complicated at all, since you work on the roux while the gravy is bubbling away. This is actually a great thing to make the day after you have people over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, when there is already leftover gravy sitting in your fridge. That pretty much takes all the work out of this recipe. Make fries (see note further down), cover in cheese curds and gravy, enjoy. But, if you don’t already have homemade gravy hanging around, this recipe yields heartier, chunkier results.

Cheese curds are very much a northern thing. Whole Foods probably sells them, I found them at Central Market. We generally do not get cheese curds fresh enough to actually squeak down here in the south, but the slightly less fresh ones suffice for this dish. If you cannot find cheese curds, any kind of Mexican melting cheese (like Oaxaca or Asadero) will totally work or simply some fresh mozzarella.

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The hardest part about making poutine is what I like to call the “french fries at home conundrum.” I mean really, who wants to whip out the deep fryer? I don’t even own a deep fryer. So I hit up the next best thing: the internet! I made my fries according to these instructions and while not difficult per se, gosh what a pain in the ass that was. So I made an executive decision to ixnay the homemade fries part of the recipe and called instead for a bag from the freezer section. GASP! Sacrilege, I know. But really, those pre made frozen suckers come out crispy on the outside and soft in the middle every time and all you have to do is open the bag and put them not-too-close-together on a pan. Done and done. So if you really want to make your own, by all means, or if you really want to bust out the deep fryer, don’t let me stop you. However, if you are like the rest of us that have other shit to do because making poutine isn’t your job, just save yourself the trouble and pick up a frozen bag of fries. Honestly the poutine won’t stick around long enough for the fries to cool off and get soggy anyway.

Venison Poutine

Ingredients

  • 1lb venison stew meat (give or take)
  • 1 Small onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 5 tablespoons butter ((4 for the roux, + 1))
  • 1 cup good broth (beef or chicken or venison if you have it)
  • 1/2-1 cup flour
  • 1 Large bag (frozen sweet potato fries for baking)
  • 4-8oz cheese curds or other fresh cheese like mozzarella
  • salt and lots of pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1
Heat 1 T of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the stew meat, season with salt and twice as much pepper as you would usually use and brown. It's okay if little bits stick to the bottom. Then add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the minced garlic and give it a little stir. Deglaze the pan with the wine and broth. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the meat is tender (30 minutes to an hour) as you prepare the rest of the dish.
Step 2
Line a baking pan with foil and bake the sweet potato fries according to package instructions. Set aside until the gravy is finished. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, starting with 1/2 cup and sprinkling more in if needed until you develop a good paste. Continue to cook and stir until the roux turns a nice chestnut brown. Once the meat in the stew/gravy is tender, whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until you get your desired consistency. If it gets to thick you can loosen it up with some water. You want it slightly on the looser side, as it will thicken as it continues to heat.
Step 3
Add the cheese curds, cover, and keep warm until the cheese is nice and melty. Spoon over the baked sweet potato fries. It's best eaten with a knife and fork, but if you want to use your hands and lick your fingers, by all means.
Non game substitution: You can make this using any gravy recipe, even a meatless gravy. (See below)
Vegetarian substitution: You can make this with a meatless gravy.

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Thomas Maupin

Poutine: Merci, la belle province. Je me souviens. Une bonne bière canadienne aide. Merci Laura.

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