poutine: how to find happiness with french fries, gravy and cheese curds

It’s a horrible thing to kill an addiction cold turkey.  It’s even worse to have it killed for you.  Ruthlessly.  Thoughtlessly.  Cruelly.

That is how I feel with summer’s official end.  Sure, South Florida kids have all been in school long enough to adjust to the bleak reality of a structured schedule, and, as the parent of two of them, so too have I been confined to early morning wake-ups, rushes to bus stops, drop offs, pick ups, homework screaming, and early bedtimes whilst insuring all three hundred different activities and requirements have been filled.  It’s no wonder I collapse in bed with them at 8:30!

Still, the TRUE end to my summer comes with the dreaded temporary close of The Dairy Belle, in Dania Beach.  Home of The Best Soft Ice Cream, I have been a faithful addict throughout the hot summer months, making the twenty minute drive for an unforgettably smooth twist on a cone- the loveable tango of chocolate and vanilla embraced in a cool, creamy spiral that balances precariously on a crispy crunch.

There are many soft ice cream joints around, and definitely many closer, but this one is IT, a fact they themselves boast by announcing they use more cream than others in their mix.

There are other pluses that make this tiny shack with five picnic benches a winner.  The owners are French Canadian and extremely jovial.  They are five minutes from the beach.  And the place is always crowded with French-speaking uber tan, relaxed people.  That in itself is a vacation and an escape from the humdrum of American suburbia life.

And then, of course, there is the poutine.

Poutine is the French-Canadian way of taking fries up a notch.  A big notch.  A concoction of French fries, cheese curd and brown gravy,  this snack will hook you in your first crunchy, creamy, salty bite.

Originally created in Quebec, the French-Canadians are serious about their Poutine.  And Dairy Belle does not disappoint.  Served in tiny or large tin foil squares, their fries come heaping with steam, fresh cheese curd, and a savory thick brown gravy.

Dairy Belle will be closed from September 7th – September 27th, so needless to say, I found myself there with my two kids on Monday, September 6th- a rarity because they are normally closed Mondays.  But this was the exception: the big send-off, and Labor Day weekend.  We sat at our usual green bench and ordered up a poutine and several cones of soft ice cream:  as we licked and chewed the three of us grew quiet, enjoying the salty air from the beach nearby, the cool creaminess of the ice cream, and the steaming crunchy poutine.  It was all my comforts wrapped into one: beach, dessert, and salty goodness.  I looked at my two kids and smiled, one was coated in ice cream, the other in gravy, I, daresay, in both.

“It doesn’t get better than this, kids.  It doesn’t get better than this!”

POUTINE (Fries & Gravy with Cheese Curds)

(adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef, chicken, or veal stock
salt and pepper, to taste
6 white potatoes, peeled and cut
oil, to fry potatoes (try olive oil!)
1/2 pound fresh cheese curd (use mozzarella if you cannot find)

In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and flour. Stir until incorporated. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes for a dark roux. Stir in the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Peel the potatoes and cut fries, 4 inches by 1/2-inch. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and blanch for 4 minutes.

Remove, drain and cool completely. Fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, mound the fries into the individual (16-ounce) disposable cups. Spoon the gravy over the fries and crumble the cheese. Serve immediately.

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