Fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Poutine is delicious comfort food, but let’s be honest, it’s usually pretty high up there in rankings for the junkiest of junk food. Here at Real Plans, we adore a good junk food makeover like our famous homemade nachos. So why not learn to make your own poutine and secretly pack it with nutritional goodness (without sacrificing the fun)?
The origins and evolution of poutine
Legend tells it that poutine was born in the middle of the last century. While several Canada towns claim to be the birthplace of this beloved hangover snackfood, a favorite tale is from Warwick, Quebec in 1957. The story is that a truck driver came into a restaurant asking for hot fries and cheese curds together in a paper bag because he was in a rush. The restaurant owner, Ferdinand Lachance, acquiesced proclaiming “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (“that will make a damned mess!”).
So there you have it. Poutine = mess, and what a damn fine mess it can be.
Having recently spent quite a bit of time in Canada, I can confidently say that poutine is very much a national favorite. Served at sporting events and fancy restaurants, poutineries solely dedicated to the dish can be found on many street corners serving the late-night student crowds and families alike.
Thankfully, Canadians aren’t snobby about reinvention when it comes to their unofficial national dish. I’ve had breakfast poutines made with hollandaise instead of gravy, poutines substituting green veggies for potatoes, and poutines loaded with enough toppings to made a plate of nachos shy.
How to make poutine (a bit healthier)
Classic poutine begins with boiled potatoes fried til crisp: french fries. Because texture can make or break a dish, aim for fries with a crispy exterior and a pillowy center. Once golden brown and still too hot to touch, sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Then top your fries with crumbled fresh cheese curds and homemade gravy .
Otherwise known as “squeaky cheese,” cheese curds are as important to traditional poutine as the fries. Fresh cheese curds have a mild flavor and a springy texture that squeaks against the teeth when bitten into. In Québec, Canada — where the dish originated — you typically pour hot gravy over the room-temperature curds so that they warm without completely melting.
The great thing about making your own poutine at home is that you get to control the quality of the ingredients you use.
Bone broth gravy
You can’t know for certain what goes in fast food gravy, but you can probably assume there have been shortcuts taken for cost and efficiency that means you’re being served a significantly healthy sauce over those fries. Made at home from good quality broth you know you’re smothering your potatoes in a superfood packed with gelatin, minerals, and no junky stuff.
When dairy cows hang out on the pasture munching grass in the sun, their milk (and everything we make with it) is naturally more abundant in healthy fat-soluble vitamins such as D, K, and E. So whenever possible buy dairy products labeled grass-fed. And better yet, visit your local farmer’s market, get to know the farmers, and find out how and where your food is made!
Healthy frier fats and salt
Did you know that when you fry in stable fats (like lard, tallow, coconut oil, or avocado oil) you dodge the inflammatory health risks that come from frying in polyunsaturated vegetable oils like canola?
While it’s probably still wise not to convert to a fully deep-fried diet, you can feel good about the fact that when you fry at home, you can do so in healthy fats in your diet that provide your body with essential fat-soluble vitamins and cholesterol.
Another shortcut in many restaurants and fast-food stands is conventional salt. As you probably know, powdery processed salt causes many health issues when consumed in excess. On the other hand, good quality sea salt that you should definitely use at home (we love the grey Celtic kind) comes rich in natural minerals that your body needs.
Choose your own adventure with fresh ingredients
When it came to creating my own favorite poutine, I knew I wanted to add something fresh. Yes to homemade fries (when I have time, but also this would work perfectly fine with frozen!). Yes to cheese curds, though in a pinch choose a mild cheese like Monterey Jack and cut into cubes. But the extra ingredient in my poutine is the bright steamed broccolini.
This very green vegetable does a lovely job of sopping up the gravy and soft cheese, and its greenness make this dish feel less sinful – if you’re in the mood to care at all about the fact you’re eating straight fat on carbs for dinner.
Meal planning with this Poutine with Broccolini
While poutine doesn’t tend to make a regular appearance on my meal plan, it’s a fun treat for a lazy Sunday afternoon or a movie night with the kids. You can get creative and add whatever toppings you want.
Prefer sweet potatoes? They work too. Want some protein? Top your poutine with some leftover shredded beef or crumble some cooked sausage on top. The possibilities are endless.
How will you do your poutine?
Poutine with Broccolini
- 5.0 stars
- 2 bunches broccolini
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 4 tbsp. sprouted flour
- 2 tsp. coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 qt chicken stock, or vegetable stock
- 4 lb russet potatoes
- 1 c avocado oil
- 16 oz Monterey Jack cheese, or cheese curds
- Pull broccolini apart into small bite-sized pieces and rinse well. Place broccolini in the pan over medium high heat and cover, steaming for 2-3 minutes until bright green. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter, sprouted flour, half the sea salt, and half the fresh ground black pepper. Whisk until incorporated and no lumps remain. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Whisk in the chicken stock, continuing to stir out any lumps as you go, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into fries, 3-4 inches long by 1/4 to 1/2-inch wide.
- Bring a pot of filtered water to a boil. Add the potatoes and blanch for 3-5 minutes. Remove, drain and cool. Pat with a dish cloth until completely dry.
- Fry the potatoes in avocado oil until golden brown.
- Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and reserve fat for future cooking.
- Plate the fries and broccolini on plates. Crumble the cheese on top into bite-size pieces and pour hot gravy over top. Serve immediately.