The (North) American Dream

March 26, 2017

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Those who know me know that I have a soft spot for Canada and its emphasis on acceptance of diversity in all its forms. Which is why, when I think of Canadian “comfort food,” the first thing that usually comes to mind is poutine – basically a hug in food form. Rich, easy to make, and coated in a delicious, warm gravy, poutine is an ideal food for days when it’s cold outside and you’re looking for something to “hit the spot,” but not weigh you down or take up your entire day. Even better, it has two of nature’s (and Canada’s) most perfect foods included in it, should you choose to add them – maple syrup and crispy, smoky bacon.

Poutine itself has somewhat of an immigrant past. According to legend, the dish was created by accident in Quebec in the 1950s and eventually made its way throughout Canada and down to the northern portion of the United States, ultimately establishing itself as being synonymous with Canadian comfort food. Today, like many Canadians, poutine can be found in countries around the world, adapted slightly to reflect local flavours, but still no less Canadian.

One of the many nice things about poutine is that, regardless of your skill level in the kitchen, this tasty treat requires very little effort to make and is really quite versatile, so you can experiment with different types of potatoes and toppings to see what you like (or if you like toppings at all). Just don’t forget the gravy and cheese curds. My favourite way to make poutine is to dress it up a little and add a maple-syrup enhanced gravy and crispy bacon to the fries. Because it’s not always as easy to find cheese curds where I live, sometimes I like to substitute them for bits of fresh, torn mozzarella, which lightens things up a little and melts nicely as all of the ingredients mix together. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just tossing some fries with a little gravy and some cheese curds or mozzarella scattered on top, either.

So… how do you make Maple Bacon Poutine? In the spirit of keeping things simple, I like to use frozen French fries and bake them in the oven; if you’re a poutine purist, you’ll want to make sure your fries are deep-fried. You’ll also need the following (this recipe serves 4):

For the Poutine

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 cup cheese curds/mozzarella chunks, torn into small bits
  • 1 bag frozen, straight-cut French fries (if making deep-fried, use 3-4 medium-sized potatoes, soaked in cold water for approx. 1 hour)

For the Gravy 

  • 3 cups cream
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. coarse-ground mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

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Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the raw bacon, spaced evenly apart, on the parchment paper. Bake 30-35 minutes or until crispy.

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Set aside to let cool.

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While the bacon is cooling, spread the frozen fries out evenly on a separate baking sheet and bake according to the instructions on the package. If making deep-fried French fries, dry the potatoes off to remove any excess moisture. Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch-thick sticks, then fry in 300°F oil for 5-8 minutes, or until golden brown.

In a medium pot, add together Dijon and coarse-ground mustards, cayenne pepper, chicken stock, milk, and cream and cook, on medium-high heat, until mixture has begun to boil, stirring frequently to make sure the milk and cream do not scald. Add flour, maple syrup, and salt and pepper (to taste – start out with 1/2 tsp. of each) to mixture and continue stirring every 5-10 minutes to make sure mixture does not overboil or scald; reduce temperature to medium-low heat and cook until mixture has reduced by half and thickened. Set aside.

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Once the fries have finished baking and are a golden brown colour, salt lightly and let cool briefly. Dice bacon into small to medium-sized pieces. Add fries to bowl, coat with gravy, and top with bacon and mozzarella bits. Enjoy!

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Fun fact: The University of Victoria in British Columbia offers a course called “The Science of Batman.” Canada also has a special quarter with a glow-in-the-dark dinosaur on it.

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