In order to really understand Quebéc culture, you have to understand poutine. In recent years the province’s proudest export is a greasy, heavy treat best eaten after the bars have shut down for the night.Consisting of fries, gravy, and fresh cheese curds, poutine can be found on menus throughout the province, from chichi restaurants where it’s likely served with foie gras to McDonald’s and Burger King.Consisting of fries, gravy, and fresh cheese curds, poutine can be found on menus throughout the province, from chichi restaurants where it’s likely served with foie gras to McDonald’s and Burger King. Despite the dish’s popularity, its origins remain hotly debated, with a number of greasy spoon owners declaring themselves the true inventor.
Whether the first poutine was created in the town of Drummondville or Warwick, no one will ever know for sure. But one part of the origin story remains the same: The invention of poutine hinges on customers adding fresh cheese curds to their fries.Cheese is one of the province’s biggest industries and because of this fresh cheese curds are found in greasy spoons and corner and small grocery stores all over the province. The curds have a slightly rubbery texture, a mild but salty taste, and look like a wad of chewed gum. You can tell whether the cheese is fresh or not by the sound of the squeak it makes when chewed—the squeakier, the fresher.
Since the fries and cheese together taste a little dry, a gravy is added to the mix—enough so that you taste it, but not so much that it looks like a stew. The gravy also helps to melt the cheese and turns the whole thing into a glorious mess.
Maverick chefs Martin Picard of Au Pied du Cochon and David McMillan of Joe Beef have helped turn poutine from a greasy-spoon staple into a culinary classic. Their unique takes on the dish (foie gras poutine and lobster poutine, respectively) have elevated it in the minds of foodies everywhere, and, as a consequence, you can now find Quebéc’s beloved dish on menus all over the world.
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montréal & Québec City.