Spring weather shifts our focus outdoors in these parts. Yard cleanup, prepping and planting the veg beds, and starting into summer projects claim priority. This distracted me from carrying through with a couple more articles for Tailgate Thursdays as I’d planned. Admittedly, I had been stuck on #13: I have a draft done involving two sauces and a comparison of recipes for same from two different cookbooks, but it was getting complicated.
Then a while back I happened across a recommendation for poutine in an AG open thread. Brilliant, I thought, a scrumptious and uncomplicated dish. So I shelved the two sauces draft and stewed awhile over the subject of poutine. The fourth week of July unfolds now as I write this. Training camp is within sight and there’ll be oodles of Chiefs stuff to noodle over soon, but I want to try and squeeze in a couple more articles before summer’s end.
Poutine (pronounced poo-TIN) is simple: french fries, cheese curds and gravy. Fries on the bottom, curds in the middle, hot gravy on top. You can imagine the different ways to fancy it up. If you have never eaten poutine before, then first try this simple, unadorned combination. The idea is for the gravy (beef, pork or chicken) to melt the cheese curds and create a delicious coating oozing in amongst the fries. You can experiment with variations later, the essence of it will always be fries, cheese and gravy.
Start with the french fries: they should be crisp. Whether you use potato wedges, home fries or frozen pre-cut fries, make sure they have some crunch to them. The last thing you want is a mush of limp potato wannabe-fries at the bottom of your bowl. Classic take-out fries from places such as the golden arches don’t have enough potato flesh in them, in my opinion. Store-bought frozen fries should be heated enough to create that crisp golden exterior. Potato wedges should also be roasted crisp on the exterior (toss them with some salt, rosemary or herb of preference along with some oil in a bowl before cooking). Sweet potato fries tend to go limp if insufficiently roasted. The trick is to set the oven to 425-450 degrees, heat up the roasting pan in the oven before spreading the (sweet) potatoes on it, then toss around the potatoes every five minutes or so which also helps you to monitor their progress towards crunchdom.
Cheese curds are sometimes referred to as squeaky cheese. Eaten fresh, they have a soft rubbery texture and they squeak as you chew them. Curds are the moist, curdled pieces skimmed off the top of pasteurized milk when cheese culture and rennet are added. Generally they have a mild flavour, like mozzarella, but they can be made to have a more tangy cheddar-like taste. Cheese curds are best eaten fresh, but you can find vacuum-sealed packets in the dairy section of your grocery store, and they’ll work just fine.
Gravy. Exactly, just think about it. Makes me want to insert a lip-smacking emoji here. Beef, pork, chicken gravy: you choose. Make it barbecue sauce if you’d like. The only essential is for it to be steaming hot. Luke warm gravy gives you a fucked up mess. Add some pulled pork, finely chop some (hot) pepper and stir it in, add some Montreal steak spice to a dark beef gravy… I am salivating right now, maybe you are too.
The prospect of this upcoming football season also has me salivating, drooling over the hope of continued excellence in this current wonderful era of the Kansas City Chiefs. And with the arrival of Chiefs football games comes the thought of tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium. I have no particular recipe for you, there’s lots of stuff on-line, the simplicity of poutine is one of its charms. A pot to heat the gravy on the grill, a deep fryer (safely employed) for the fries, layer in the cheese curds, and you’ll have a poutine to accompany the rest of your tailgate banquet. Good eats, and go Chiefs!