Fries with That

By Nick Fauchald Posted March 22, 2007

Growing up, there was always a bag of Wisconsin cheese curds in our refrigerator. These weren’t the squeaky, ultrafresh nuggets sold out the back doors of creameries (it’s illegal to sell fresh raw-milk cheese), but these prosessed, ersatz curds were just as squeaky as the real thing, and the flavor of processed cheese was all I knew at the time. As with many other foods in the Midwest (including pickles and Snickers bars), cheese curds were consumed only two ways: straight out of the package or battered and fried. It wasn’t until a trip to Quebec a few years ago that I discovered a third—and most cunning—preparation: poutine (poo-TEEN), in which cheese curds are melted over a mountain of fries and doused with brown gravy.

Why didn’t we think of that? In Canada, where poutine is as pervasive as hockey skates, it appears everywhere that french fries would in America, from high-end bistros to fast-food chains like McDonald’s and a franchise called New York Fries. The name of the latter has mocked me ever since, because I’ve encountered neither cheese curd nor poutine in New York—until last night, when I ate at the new Inn LW12, the city’s latest gastropub-of-the-week. Surprisingly, this Canadian-themed boîte has Daniel Boulud’s hands in it (he “collaborated” on the menu with chef Andy Bennet), and though most of the food we tried last night was substandard—a roasted chicken was so tough it tried to steal my wallet—the $13 poutine, a cast-iron cocotte full of fries and unctuous gravy dotted with tangy, just-melted cheese, was worth every loonie. Now I just need to find some cheese curds of my own, and I'll be able to eat poutine as often as any Canadian. Any help?

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