“Jew-tine.” Photo by Keri White

I recently traveled to Quebec and, among other things, learned about the wonders of poutine.

This concoction, which involves a generous pile of French fries doused in gravy and topped with cheese curds, is uniquely Canadian, not to mention a cardiologist’s nightmare. I would liken it to pizza, nachos or cheesesteaks for a local equivalent — something that is generally ordered out, consumed largely (though not exclusively) by the young and often eaten after a night of revelry.

According to legend, the dish was invented in Quebec in the late 1950s when a patron of a hotel asked for cheese curds to be mixed with fries. Later, gravy was added to the mix.

For kosher diners, this dish, which mixes meat and dairy, is a nonstarter, but I fiddled with the ingredients and came up with a vegetarian gravy. Granted, this is not something that would be eaten regularly, but as a novelty, it is a treat. And I promise, your younger relatives and guests will be dazzled.

Rather than traditional, messy and labor-intensive French fries, I opted to use roasted potatoes which, when done correctly, can mimic the crispness of a fry.

As for the cheese curds, traditionalists use curds that resemble mild white cheddar. Interestingly, they are placed on top of the fries cold, and are most definitely not melted. I found this interesting and wondered why they weren’t melted. When I inquired about this of my guide, he looked at me as if I had offered to share a wet toothbrush, so I dropped the subject.

If curds are not available, cut small chunks of mild cheddar, mozzarella or jack (like the size of a raspberry). For a twist (and doubtless Canadian sacrilege) consider crumbled feta or ricotta salada instead.

Serves 2 generously

For the potatoes:

4 medium-sized potatoes (about the size of a woman’s fist) cut in bite-sized chunks
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
Generous sprinkling of fresh cracked pepper (about 10 turns of my pepper mill)

For the gravy:
2 cups vegetable broth
½ cup red wine
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon Wondra flour (or 1 tablespoon regular flour mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Cheese Curds:
¾ cup cheese curds or small pieces of mild cheddar, mozzarella or jack cheese

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, place the parchment paper, and spread the potatoes. Pour the oil over the potatoes, then gather them up in the parchment and toss them around to coat. Sprinkle the salt and pepper. Be sure the potatoes are not touching each other— this helps them to crisp.

Roast the potatoes in your oven for at least an hour — you almost can’t overcook them.

When the potatoes are close to done, make the gravy.

In a small saucepan, mix the broth, wine and onion. Bring it to boil, and let it cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Add flour to thicken. Continue cooking and allowing the gravy to thicken. When done, add the butter and whisk; taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Assemble the dish: Divide the potatoes, and place them in the bottoms of two shallow bowls to serve. Spoon the gravy over the potatoes, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Serve immediately.


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