Every year when we’d travel to Quebec, we’d make a point to splurge on the local specialty eats. One of them is poutine, a friendly-on-the-palate (but not-so-friendly-on-the-waist) “snack.” Since we have been missing family and friends, the province, and our annual dose of this delectable, and generally watch our intake of deep-fried foods, I thought I’d remake it but in the oven. This may seem a culinary faux pas to Quebecers, but it was a hit with my health-conscious, native other half! So, here’s a background on poutine, how I made oven-baked poutine, and additional suggestions.
What is Poutine?
Poutine (pronounced “pooh-teen”) is a concoction of fries, cheese curds, and gravy said to have come about in the 1950s when a man came into a diner and asked for his fries and cheese to be packaged together because he was on-the-go. The resultant mass of hot fries with melted cheese was described by the owner as a “poutine” or “mess.”
Some years later, gravy was added to the combo, and the dish has been popular ever since. Now there are seemingly endless possibilities for extra toppings, such as ground beef or diced turkey with green peas.
How to Make Oven-Baked Poutine
Time, Equipment, and Ingredients
To make “Oven-Baked Poutine,” all you need is an hour of cooking time, an oven, a French knife, cutting board, baking sheet, pot, water, whisk, and spatula, and:
- 2 large red potatoes
- 1 to 1½ cups cheese curds
- 1 packet of brown gravy mix
- 1 tablespoon of olive or canola oil
Cheese Curds — Nothing beats the “squeaky” cheese curds of Quebec, but they’re not in U.S. stores (unless, perhaps, you live in Wisconsin). Squeaky cheese curds may be available online. I found regular, vacuum-packed cheese curds at our neighborhood market. They taste similar to string cheese, so chopped up string cheese could be a suitable alternative.
Brown Gravy Mix — Don’t underestimate the power of the gravy! I tried standard brown gravy mix, but it just didn’t work. It lacked depth-of-flavor and that certain “je ne sais quoi.” Then, I purchased a mix from a rotisserie chicken restaurant we ate at in Quebec online, and it made all the difference! If you don’t have the exact right potatoes or cheese curds, you can make up for it with the correct gravy.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F for 15 minutes.
- Wash and drain the potatoes and cut into wedges. (For a crispier texture, soak in a bowl of water for a few hours and pat-dry in advance.) Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet, coat evenly with oil, and bake for 37 to 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the cheese curds from the package, break into smaller pieces with your index fingers and thumbs, and transfer to a container with a lid.
- When the potatoes are done baking, turn off the heat but keep them warm in the oven. Meanwhile, prepare the gravy according to package directions. (This should take no more than 5 minutes.) Turn off the heat.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven. Transfer onto a plate and top evenly with cheese and gravy. Store remaining cheese curds in the refrigerator. Serve and share.
Oven-baked poutine is great way to experience Quebec through food, but it’s also an indulgent treat that can be shared while watching hockey. For sports events, bake the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. When done baking, remove from the oven and top evenly with cheese and gravy. Set the heat to “broil” and return to the oven for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer by pulling the foil onto a serving platter.
So there you have it. That’s my oven-baked poutine. Have you ever had poutine before? Where and what kind? Did it have extra toppings? Have you tried making it at home? Have you ever had any other French-Canadian foods, such as broth fondue? Comment and share below.