Homemade fries and slowly reduced, hearty beef gravy. Add cheese curds to this and we have the unofficial national dish of Canada: poutine! I was fortunate to try this delicacy on my recent (and first ever) trip to Canada, and I've been aching to give this a try since returning home. This may seem like an odd combination to those of us in the United States who drown our fries in ketchup. But once you've tried this, you'll certainly be wanting to make it yourself. This dish can be put together easily be heating store-bought fries and adding cheese curds. You can also heat up store-bought beef gravy…but believe me, making the gravy yourself is far more satisfying. Folks in Canada love cheese curds, which they call squeaky cheese, but when it comes to poutine, those Canucks up north say it's all about the gravy. Well, actually they say "It's all about the gravy, eh!"
Pans needed: Cast iron dutch oven for frying potatoes in oil. Large cast iron skillet, or deep skillet (chicken fryer), for preparing the gravy. Large bowl or container to soak the fries. A rack, to cool and drain the fries after frying.
If you want some good crispy fries, the best method is done in three steps:
Cut potatoes into large fries. Add the fries to a bowl, and fill the bowl with cold water. Soak the fries in cold water for at least an hour or more. This will keep the fries from sticking together as they are fried.
Add oil to a large cast iron pot. Heat the oil to between 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the fries from the water, onto a tray or platter. Using paper or cloth towels, pat the fries dry.
That's why we start by soaking the fries in cold water, for at least an hour. Then we begin heating the oil, while we pat the fries dry. We want our fries as dry as possible, because wet fries will cause the oil to spit and splatter all over the place.
The first step is called blanching the fries, and we fry them for five minutes with the oil at a lower temperature of less than 300 degrees. If you look in the back area of any fast food place, you'll see even there, their big fryers are set to cook the fries twice. After blanching the fries, remove them to a cooling rack and let them cool off. This gives us time to start preparing the gravy.
When the fries are cool, heat the oil a second time to between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fry the fries for a second time. After a few minutes, the fries will begin floating in the oil, and that's how we can tell they're done. Remove the fries to the cooling rack. Season them immediately with kosher salt while hot.
Cut one pound of beef into large pieces. Chop onion into small pieces.
Heat up a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or deep skillet (chicken fryer) at medium heat for ten minutes. This will bring the pan to searing temperature.
A fast gravy can be made with beef broth, but we're doing this the hard way, so we can have the tastiest gravy you can make. That means searing a pound of beef in a cast iron pan. With most steaks you just want a fast sear to get a good crust, but here we're trying to make as much juice as possible. That's also why it isn't a problem when crowding the pan produces extra liquid. This is going to be the base for our gravy. The key here is to have a lot of patience, and keep stir frying the beef for at least ten to fifteen minutes, or even more than that. The beef will develop a crust and the liquid will become thick and rich.
Add chopped onions, and stir it all together until the onions are caramelized. Add some salt and pepper for flavor, and that's all the seasoning we need to add for this gravy. When everything is well done and tender, add a quarter cup of flour, and stir it to make the roux. Add a quart of beef broth to the pan, and start stirring. It's going to take at least 40 to 45 minutes for the gravy reduce to the consistency we want, and we have to keep stirring it constantly, so it doesn't burn.
Keep stirring, until the gravy is reduced. And what's left is a rich and hearty gravy that's like nothing else.
Now it's time to prepare the poutine. All we do is add our fries, and top them with squeaky cheese curds. Then top it off with gravy, and the poutine is ready. Actually, there are a lot of poutine dishes that add extra toppings to the poutine, and that means we can top this dish off with the cooked steak tips. Now we can serve the poutine, and enjoy.