Who better than this site's French-Canadian writer to bring you the scoop on the dish that put Quebec on the map in the fast food world? Yessir, I am talking about poutine, that heart-attack-but-so-yummy-in-a-bowl. Let's face it: greased potatoes, the grease from milk, and the grease from meat, all artfully put together in one dish. Who else but us would come up with such an idea?
However, there is one thing that I need to point out to you americans. Although you do know poutine, hardly any american restaurants get it right because you are not familiar with the key ingredient: cheese curds. These little pieces of hard, ripe cheese don't fully melt like grated cheese - which is what you tend to use in your recipes - and give a chewy, squeaky feel to the poutine that makes it so tempting to us. You see, cheese curds are a favourite in Quebec, especially when they were just brought fresh from the farm that very morning, still warm and dripping with milk in their little individually-sized packages. They are so popular that most stores run out by the end of the day. They don't even bother putting them in the fridge, which although would keep them longer, dries up the milk faster and eliminates the most enjoyable part of eating them: the squeaking noise they make between your teeth. Yes, we call this the 'squeaky cheese'. This, my friends, is the part of a poutine that is impossible to replace for a vegan, and that I just have to live without. Sigh....
All nostalgia aside, there are a few interesting recipes for poutine that can be quickly done and taste great.
1- The Classic: a vegan cheese and a mushroom gravy pair very well to make this dish as close to the original as possible, without the heart-stopping fats. Yum.
2- The Italian: chopping some tofu and opening a jar of spaghetti sauce is a great twist to the usual Italian poutine found in Quebec fast food joints. Don't add veggies to the sauce if you want to keep it as close to the real thing as possible, or add a few mushrooms.
3- The Mexican: dice a jalapeño and spread on your fries. Next, open a can of refried beans and add either half a can of tomato paste with the equivalent in water, or half a small can of diced tomatoes. Stir well and pour on fries. NB: make sure to read the label as some refried beans contain animal fats.
4- The Bean Salad: open a can of cooked garbanzos, one of pinto beans and one of black beans. Drizzle with your favourite salad dressing. I recommend Italian dressing. Yum.
5- The Sourpuss: dice tomatoes and chop some green onions. Top with vegan sour cream. Add vegan bacon bits if you wish.
6- The Tropical: Cover your fries with chopped peanuts and coconut milk. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice.
7- The Pesto Poutine: roast a bit of garlic, pine nuts and sundried tomatoes; add a few pieces of finely chopped spinach. Cover with warm vegan pesto.
8- The Hawaiian: dice pineapples and vegan ham. Top with vegan shredded cheese. Add a bit of tomato pizza sauce if you have some handy.
Those are all the ideas I have for now... if you have a few, add in the comments below!