First of all, for those who don’t know what “poutine” is… It is a serving of deep fried potato chunks, plated and served with meat gravy and soft cheese curds. The dish is famous in the Canadian Provence of Quebec where the specific ingredients, the preparation and the place of origin are a popular topic of debate in “La Belle Province”.
Poutine à la Au Pied de Cochon…
The next obvious need for explanation is the reference to “Fois Gras.” The literal translation of the French words is “fat liver”… Actually it is the liver from a fatted goose. The procedure of forced feeding of geese to insure maximum pound of liver for pound of grain is traditional in parts of France. However, as served at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, Quebec, Chef Martin Picard ( http://www.quebeciscooking.com/martin_picard.htm ) the chef responsible for the dish pictured below, has proven that if you simply feed geese continually with good grade grain (corn) the silly thing will naturally stuff themselves without any physical encouragement. This insures a nice fat goose for cooking and a “fois gras” of outstanding quality.
And so I present, for your consideration, a dish of double fried potato chips swathed in rich meat gravy and topped with soft cheese curds melting over the hot potatoes and crowned with two thick slabs of sautéed fois gras. The beverage of choice was a McAuslan Brewing Company version of their St-Ambroise Pale Ale…
According to the brewery site, “St-Ambroise Pale Ale is the brewery's flagship beer.
Introduced in February 1989, it is a hoppy, amber, full-flavored ale. In the Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer, beer critic Michael Jackson gave it three stars and described it as: "An outstanding ale... amber-red, clean and appetizing, with a very good hop character, from its bouquet to its long finish. Hoppy, fruity, and tasty all the way through."
You might remember my story about Le Reservoir, or Beneleux. While sitting in both places, especially Le Reservoir, I wished they could be magically transported to Brooklyn. The food, beers and ambiance came together becoming a transcendent moment. Be careful what you wish for my friends.
There are certain beers, such as your favorite brewpub stout, certain foods, such as hot-cross-buns, and certain celebrations, such as Oktoberfest, that you have to go to, wait for and visit the original. Substitutions are poor imitations. It can’t be helped.
Poutine à la Mile End…
The above is a picture of Poutine à la Mile End. The Mile End chips (French Fries) were as crisp as at Au Pied de Cochon without the duck-fat flavor. The brown sauce was just as flavorful. The cheese curds, fresh local organic curds, unfortunately missed the mark. Why? Because the curds for poutine should be the processed version of curd that melts in the same way Velveeta melts. In this case the choice of “organic” over “junk” loses points on “not to style”.
Here is another Mile End version of Poutine with a quarter pound or more of smoked beef brisket nestled under the sauce helping to melt the cheese curds. Note the cup of coffee in the upper right hand corner. Although the poutine is not “to style” it is attending to its traditional role as a remedy for a long night of round after round of brews.
Poutine à la Harpoon…
The above picture is a version of poutine that is served at the Harpoon brewpub in Windsor, VT. On a cool spring afternoon too late for lunch, too early for dinner, with a hunger that cannot be denied, “Style” is not part of the evaluation. The chips (it is a Quebec dish so I defer to their verbiage) are crisp and flavorful, the sauce is rich and plentiful and the cheese curds melt lovingly over the crisp potatoes. The wheat beer with a hint of citrus is a perfect flavor match.
Poutine à la Ugly Duckling…
Here in Brooklyn, a recently opened watering hole (Ugly Duckling) featuring thirty taps, and a menu with duck as a major attraction, serves up what they call “Dirty Poutine”.
My Canadian cousins might find this version the most amusing of all the above. The chips are fried in duck fat right to style. The brown duck gravy is succulent and the shredded duck confit can be forgiven as flight of fancy. The mozzarella cheese would have them in fits of laughter. However, the mozzarella melt is better than any of the cheese curds found in the above mentioned examples of poutine. What I am still wondering about is the poor baby bean sprouts scattered on top. Ah… now I understand… poutine is health food!
Poutine à la Dinosaur BBQ - Brooklyn…
This one came as a surprise… On 24 September (Wednesday) 2014 I returned to a “scene of a crime”… more or less. You see, I first met Dinosaur in Stamford, CT. It was there that I pigged out (pun intended) like I had never done before. It was not the best BBQ in the world, almost imposable to find hopefully as the quest is the most fun. Nevertheless, the ambiance, company and the selection of “sides” and pitchers of fresh beer convinced me to turn off my conscience and redefine the word glutton.
This brings me to my first visit to Dinosaur-Brooklyn... It is a large place and had a waiting list as early as six o’clock on a mid-week day. It was my wife who noticed the “Dino Poutine” on the menu. I was reading the rib selection. Having just posted this blog I was hard to not order them, along with a full rack of St. Louis-style BBQ pork ribs… their “Sweetheart” deal.
The “poutine” was a tasty mélange of brown gravy and potatoes. The pulled pork is a savory addition of richness but the cheese seemed too need a bit more emphasis. I’m looking forward to doing it again… the whole thing. (Pitcher of beer was Other Half I.P.A.)