Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why I love Montreal Reason # 873

When the weather turns cold and gray and wet, we (and by "we" I mean "I") turn to comfort food. And what better place to find it than here in Quebec, home of poutine and steamies.

It's difficult to explain poutine (pronounced "pootzin") to someone who has never experienced it. It's like trying to explain an orgasm; once you've had one, you just know, but until then, it all sounds pretty sketchy.

Poutine doesn't sound or even look remotely appetizing, so it's hard to convince visitors to give it a try. Basically it consists of french fries, topped with cold cheese curds then smothered in hot barbeque chicken gravy. It's important that the curds are cold because the idea is to prevent them from melting completely under the hot gravy so that when you eat them, the cheese squeaks against your teeth. As you dig through the hot fries however, the curds do get gooey and the strands end up plastered all over your chin. Definitely not a First Date Food, although if my husband-to-be had taken me out for this, he could have skipped the whole flowers and movie and sweet-talking schtick and just fast-forwarded to third base. What can I say? I turn into Carb Gal every fall. (Not in the other three seasons, no sir. Just raw veggies and tofu for me in those seasons.)

Where you go to get your poutine is also clutch. You'll find roadside stands called casse-croutes or chains like Lafleur's or La Belle Province all over Quebec. The fries are best when fresh and cut by hand, and if you can get them cooked in lard, better still. Proper fries are always cooked twice, once to cook the inside, then again to brown the outside. Unlike McFries, they are fat and soft and greasy, real chest-clutchers. The gravy is also important, as it shouldn't be too salty and have a nice, robust, spicy flavour.

Then of course there are the steamies "all dressed" which are simply hotdogs stuffed in top-loading, steamed buns which are slightly soggy and chewy (the rest of Canada uses side loading buns apparently, and why does this NOT surprise me?) Then you smother it in onions, mustard and fresh coleslaw, most of which ends up down the front of your shirt. They always come in pairs.

Toasted buns are always offered on the menu. No one ever orders a toasted bun. Ever. It's like a chef's salad in the land of the Golden Arches. They offer it, but they don't really mean it.

Sure this meal is loaded with fat and sodium and pig parts you probably don't want to know about. It'll kill you if you eat enough of it, but you'll die with a big greasy smile on your face.

I guess I should go on a field trip and experience it firsthand. For my readers' sakes.

You'll have to come hither and try it for yourself.


Susan Adrian said...

"if you can get them cooked in lard, better still."

Oh. Er...hmmm.

A Novel Woman said...

What? You don't like English fish and chips? The proper i.e. BEST way is to cook 'em in lard or beef drippings.

I have poutine once or twice a year at most, whenever my sister visits. A lot of Quebecers have it several times a week then follow it up with a cigarette.

Live fast, die young seems to be the rallying cry here.

BB said...

Darlin'... these may taste like heaven, but you are quite correct about the pics not doing them justice. They kinda look... like chips and gravy and hot dogs to me. Just sayin'.

Of course you may be just as impressed with our Aussie fare: individual serve meat pies and steak burgers and lamingtons.

Oh a rich array of gourmet posts coming up!!

Laura Bradbury said...

Dear Pam,

Ahhhh....poutine from The Green Spot....ahhhhh (excuse me while I have a poutine orgasm over here in France).

Have to come back to Montreal tres, tres bientot.

By the way, I tagged you madame, which means that, if you're game, you have to post 6 things your readers don't know about you on your blog, and then tag 6 OTHER bloggers (though I only tagged four, figured I don't know Pioneer Woman or David Lebovitz well enough). You let them know via their comments box.

Thanks for the poutine break. Do you think it could be shipped???

Bises xo


A Novel Woman said...

Yeah, I know the pic doesn't do it justice. I didn't take that photo, btw. And you can't really do it justice visually. You have to taste it for yourself.

Laura, there is nothing to be done except a visit. Bring the kids and hubby. I have a cottage and a Laurentian lake with your name on it.


Trudy said...

Poutine! Me and Dave tried it on our honeymoon, not knowing what the hell it was - and loved it!
One day we'll get back to Montreal...*sigh*

HeatherHam said...

Hiya Mum!

So I've been busy lately and therefore I'm a bit behind in your blog, but I'm really enjoying what you've posted lately. I love reading your blog and especially when I'm stressed from school. It makes me think of home and I can always hear your voice in my head while I read.

This poutine one was great! You captured the cheesy, greasy goodness in all its glory...I want one! I have a picture of Leah eating her first one by the way. I should send it to auntie Lisa!

Anyway, back to essays!

Love, Heather

A Novel Woman said...

Hey, Heather Hambone!

You'll be home before you know it. Only a few more weeks to go, and then we can go out and have a poutine. Or sushi. Or beans and rice...

HeatherHam said...

Haha no more beans and rice! I'm getting pretty sick of it....well almost, I had some for dinner tonight. Rice, black beans, corn, and seasoned with curry, a little olive oil and some sea salt. It wasn't bad! If I'm going to eat cheaply I will do it with flair!

Debby said...

Okay, gotta admit, did not study the picture all that closely, because now you've got me craving cheese curds. I love the way they squeak on your teeth. I like homemade french fries. Never thought of smothering them in BBQ sauce. Gotta say...I think I'd like poutine.

I'll betcha I could make my own...

BB said...

OK - are cheese curds like cottage cheese?? Ah am so con-foosed!!!

A Novel Woman said...

Debbie, Are you saying you know how to make french fries? At home? I am SO coming to visit. I remember when Maria (my husband's assistant) invited everyone over for dinner and made a big platter of homecut fries with chunks of Portuguese sea salt sprinkled over top. We were like wild hyenas on a weak gazelle....embarrassing....

BB, would I SERIOUSLY suggest putting cottage cheese on fries? (I do, however, put it in my award winning lasagna. And by award winning, I mean my kids like it.)

No, cheese curds come in bags, and they are salted, wet, creamy, random shaped globs of fresh cheddar cheese. The fresher the better, and the squeakier it will be, i.e. eaten within a day of being made. Apparently cheese curds are big in Wisconsin (yeah, I don't know why either, but just in case you find yourself wandering around Wisconsin and you feel a bit peckish....) Here in Quebec, you can find bags of curds everywhere - gas stations, Walmart, you name it, you'll find curds.


Susan Adrian said...

Don't know about homemade french fries, but these homemade potato chips are divine:

A Novel Woman said...

Susan, I make oven fries all the time in the summer, sometimes with sweet potatoes, because I have a convection oven at the cottage and they come out crispier. But instead of butter, I use a tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of Herbes de Provences. Healthier and yummy.