I did not know what poutine was before I moved to Ottawa. Given our close proximity to Quebec and the intermingling of the two cultures in the national capital region, poutine, luckily, is practically on every menu here.
Who doesn’t love French fries topped with local fresh cheese curds and a rich gravy? Seriously, this is comfort food at its best.
Back when I moved here, I tried not to set my heart on poutine too much, figuring it would be difficult to find a restaurant that served the dish with a vegetarian gravy. Within a few weeks, however, we discovered Elgin Street Diner. All of their poutine is topped with a deep, brown mushroom gravy and no one suspects a thing! I was hooked with my first bite. You know it’s wrong and yet oh so right. Since then, other joints that specialize in poutine have popped up each featuring at least one vegetarian gravy, including one of my favourites, black peppercorn gravy.
My only issue is the fried potatoes. It was for this reason that we didn’t have this dish often. It was a treat.
That is, until I invested in my T-Fal Actifry. I had my doubts, but it did not disappoint. The fries look and taste fried and are cooked in only 3 tablespoons of canola oil (yes, I upped the fat content, but not by much and the difference results in a close replica of the real thing). Enough to convince my mother to buy one.
So, with the deep fried element eliminated, we are definitely enjoying this beloved favourite more often and without the guilt!
I make a number of different types of gravies: mushroom, tamari, nutritional yeast, and they are all delicious. Amongst my favourites is the mushroom gravy, but I don’t always have mushrooms at hand in my pantry. So, I set out to create an onion and black peppercorn gravy. There are no shortages of onions in my pantry.
Upon his first bite, my husband uttered while still chewing, “This is even better than your mushroom gravy”. Definitely more neutral, but unquestionably full of flavour.
The only challenge was creating a gravy that wasn’t too sweet, not an easy feat when onions are the star attraction. That’s where the peppercorn comes in. Coupled with just stopping short of caramelizing the onions, plus the robust woody rosemary and the touch of white wine, they offset the sweetness of the onions to create a flavourful and creamy gravy to rival anything out there. Call me crazy, but I think it’s better than the real thing.
To complete the dish, I topped it with fresh spinach and diced tomatoes, which when combined with the fries, curds, and especially the gravy, provide a burst of freshness and manage to complete the meal.
Come on Fall! Come on rich comfort food (but not too rich)!
Makes 4 cups (enough for 6 lbs of potatoes)
Serves 3 -4
|Olive oil||½ cup|
|Onion, Spanish, large, roughly sliced||1|
|Leek, roughly sliced||1|
|Shallot, roughly sliced||1|
|Garlic, cloves, sliced||3|
|Rosemary, sprigs, fresh, stem removed||2|
|Wine, white||1/3 cup|
|Potatoes, cut into French fries||6 lbs|
|Olive oil||9 tbsp (3 tbsp per 2 lb of potatoes, if using T-fal Actifry)|
|Cheese curds||500 g|
|Tomato, large, diced||1|
- For the potatoes, wash, dry, and hand cut potatoes into French fries. Place potatoes on a paper towel and dry thoroughly. Place in T-fal fryer. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil (per 2 lb of potatoes) and season with salt and black pepper. Set timer for 45 minutes. Alternatively, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until potatoes are golden brown. You’ll need more olive oil if using this method.
- To make the gravy, in a medium pot, heat olive oil.
- Add Spanish onion, leek, and shallot and cook for 10-12 minutes until onions are translucent, but not caramelized.
- Add garlic, salt, black pepper, and rosemary and cook for a couple minutes more until garlic is fragrant.
- Remove pot from heat. Scoop onion mixture into a food processor and process until thoroughly combined and smooth. This step is important to avoid a chunky gravy.
- Return onion mixture to pot. After a couple minutes, add flour and thoroughly combine. Cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add wine to deglaze.
- Once the wine has evaporated, one ladle at a time, whisk in the broth until the gravy becomes smooth and creamy.
- Adjust seasoning adding salt and black pepper to taste. I really like black pepper, so am quite generous with it. Just keep tasting as you go along to get it right for you. Simmer gravy for 3-4 more minutes until the consistency is to your liking.
- To assemble, divide potatoes into 3-4 portions. Divide the cheese curds between the portions. Pour gravy over French fries and curds. Top with spinach and tomatoes.