Am I a food blogger? Well, I write about cheese which is, after all, one of the major food groups. I cook stuff and stick photographs up of each excruciating chopping, stirring, braising stage for all to see. So I guess I must be.
But on the other hand, some food bloggers always have beautiful photographs of perfectly cooked dishes quivering on vintage china with flowers in the background. They never seem to have disasters where their pie crust cracks down the middle or they leave a sauce simmering to go and break up a row about a mouth organ and come back to find it’s burnt to the bottom of the pan. I’m certainly not one of those food bloggers. And this post bears testimony to that. So before an angry hoard of Canadians takes up arms and heads for the suburbs of Tooting, look, I know it’s not worked out perfectly, okay?
I was attracted to making Poutine because it was about the most novel use of cheese curds I’ve ever heard of and because it contains chips. Essentially it’s cheese, chips and gravy with a posh-sounding name. Poutine is a French-Canadian dish which is commonly sold in pubs and what we would call ‘greasy spoons’ over here. It’s also been taken up by big chains such as McDonalds and Burger King, such is its popularity. There are dozens of versions of how both the name and the recipe originated but one chap called Fernand Lachance, from Quebec claims that poutine was invented there in 1957. When someone asked him to put some curds on some fries he exclaimed ‘ça va faire une maudite poutine’ (‘it will make a damn mess’) and a national cuisine was born (the gravy came later to keep the chips warm).
I fear I have bastardised this national treasure in a multitude of ways. I don’t have a deep fat fryer and I didn’t want to get into the business of hot oil and so I baked my chips in the oven. The gravy is genuine chicken gravy, leftover from our Sunday roast, so this at least is authentic.
The curds. Ah, the curds. As anyone who reads this blog knows, my cheese-making skills can best be described as erratic. This dish is very specific in that it calls for ‘squeaky’ cheese curds and so this involves using culture and rennet and scalding the resulting curds until they literally squeak between the teeth. All this I did. I warmed the milk, used a mesophilic starter and left it for 45 minutes. I then added the rennet and left it for a further 45 minutes. I got a clean set, cut up my curds and then scalded them until they released lots of whey and got squeaky. And they did squeak, a tiny bit, like the world’s smallest mouse with laryngitis. But not well enough, I realise. Really, Canadians, I do realise. And they’re too small.
But what can I say about the finished dish? Curds. Chips. Gravy. Yum.
Are you Canadian? Come and tell me about Poutine and what it means to you
and how appalled you are at what I’ve produced.