POSTED: 01:28 p.m. HST, Feb 19, 2014
One of my favorite vacation souvenirs is a new food — something tried for the first time in a new place that I can bring home in the form of a recipe.
This is how I met poutine, the fabulously unhealthy junk food favorite of Quebec, consisting of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. Very tasty. Very audacious. Very scary to everyone I've told about it since I got home last week.
Now, before you get all squeamish and start reaching for your cholesterol meds, think about chili-cheese fries. Very poutinelike, except with gravy instead of chili. Nothing is inherently off-putting about fries with cheese, or fries with gravy, so I am left to conclude that what alarms people is the word "curds."
But get over it. Curds are just inoffensive lumps of very fresh, unaged cheese. Miss Muffett ate them.
During a recent vacation in Montreal, I found curds even in convenience stores, but in these Hawaiian Islands, not so much. Whole Foods sometimes carries a type made in Wisconsin. The best substitute is fresh mozzarella, which has the same light taste and soft texture.
The lazy way to make poutine would be to use shredded mozzarella, gravy from a can and fast-food fries. (In Montreal, in fact, McDonald's sells poutine — $1.50 per serving.)
The overachiever would make the fries from actual potatoes, make gravy from scratch and hunt down real cheese curds (or even make those from scratch; go to www.cheesemaking.com if you're serious).
I suggest a middle-of-the-road approach: Buy frozen fries and cut up some fresh mozzarella, but make your own gravy. It's not that hard and is the best way to put your own flavor stamp on the dish.
Chances are you're only doing this for the novelty, not to make a career of it, so don't try too hard.
1 pound frozen french fries
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup chopped fresh mozzarella cheese (pieces about 1/2 inch long)
2 cups turkey or chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
To make gravy: Place broth in small pot over medium heat and bring to simmer.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir constantly until smooth and light brown. Gradually add broth, stirring to prevent lumps. Keep warm over low heat until fries are ready.
Preheat oil to 375 degrees and add fries, working in batches until golden and crisp (fries can also be baked; follow package directions). Shake off excess oil and drain on paper towels. Top fries with cheese. Stir gravy and pour over all. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 500 calories, 31 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 900 mg sodium, 45 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 12 g protein
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
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