|Course||Main dish or side dish|
|Place of origin||Canada|
|Region or state||Québec|
|Main ingredients||French fries, gravy, cheese curds|
|Cookbook: Poutine Media: Poutine|
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Poutine (//; Québec French: [put͡sɪn] ( listen)) is a Canadian dish, originating in the province of Québec, made with French fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy. This fast-food dish is typically found across Canada and in some places in the northern United States. In Canada it is sold in small "greasy spoon" type diners (commonly known as cantines or casse-croûtes in Québec) and pubs, as well as by roadside chip wagons (commonly known as cabanes à patates, literally "potato shacks") and in hockey arenas. National and international chains such as Smoke's Poutinerie, New York Fries, McDonald's, Wendy's, A&W, KFC, Burger King, Harvey's and Wahlburgers restaurants also sell mass-market poutine in Canada (although not always country-wide).
The dish is thought to have originated in rural Québec, Canada, in the late 1950s, and several provincial communities claim to be the birthplace of poutine, including Drummondville (by Jean-Paul Roy in 1964)  and Victoriaville. Prior to this, since 1901, the closest dish to poutine was known as "chips, cheese and gravy" and was widely available in the UK (particularly the north of England and Scotland). Some believe that the Canadian classic "poutine" was somewhat inspired by this British dish.
One often-cited tale is that of Warwick, Québec restaurateur Fernand Lachance of Le Café Ideal, who is said in 1957 to have exclaimed, "ça va faire une maudite poutine!" ("It will make a damn mess!") when asked by restaurant regular Eddy Lainesse to put a handful of cheese curds on some french fries, hence the name. The sauce was allegedly added later, to keep the fries warm longer. Over time, the dish's popularity spread across the province (and later throughout Canada), being served in small-town restaurants and bars, as well as becoming quite popular in ski resorts and sports arenas.
The Dictionnaire historique du français québécois lists 15 different meanings of poutine in Québec and Acadian French, most of which are for kinds of food; the word poutine in the meaning "fries with cheese and gravy" is dated to 1982. Other senses of the word have been in use at least since 1810.
While the exact provenance of the word "poutine" is uncertain, some attribute it to the English word pudding. Among its various culinary senses, that of "a dessert made from flour or bread crumbs" most clearly shows this influence; the word pouding, borrowed from the English pudding, is in fact a synonym in this sense. The pejorative meaning "fat person" of poutine (used especially in speaking of a woman) is believed to derive from the English pudding "a person or thing resembling a pudding" or "stout, thick-set person".
In other meanings of poutine, the existence of a relation to the English word pudding is uncertain. One of these additional meanings — the one from which the name of the dish with fries is thought to derive — is "unappetizing mixture of various foods, usually leftovers". This sense may also have given rise to the meaning "complicated business, complex organization; set of operations whose management is difficult or problematic".
The Dictionnaire historique mentions the possibility that the form poutine is simply a gallicization of the word pudding. However, it considers it more likely that it was inherited from regional languages spoken in France, and that some of its meanings resulted from the later influence of the similar-sounding English word pudding. It cites the Provençal forms poutingo "bad stew" and poutité "hodgepodge" or "crushed fruit or foods"; poutringo "mixture of various things" in Languedocien; and poutringue, potringa "bad stew" in Franche-Comté as possibly related to poutine. The meaning "fries with cheese and gravy" of poutine is among those held as probably unrelated to pudding provided the latter view is correct.
- French fries: Usually of medium thickness, and fried (sometimes twice) such that the inside stays soft, while the outside is crispy.
- Cheese curds: Fresh cheese curds are used to give the desired texture. The curd size may vary but is usually slightly smaller than bite-sized. Poutine cheese curds are different from regular ones in that they are not produced by cheddaring (weighting and pressing to squeeze out whey and to firm them). Instead, poutine's "squeaky" cheese curds are cooked, then allowed to cure to develop tanginess.
- Brown gravy: Traditionally a light and thin chicken, veal, or turkey gravy, somewhat salty and mildly spiced with a hint of pepper, or a sauce brune which is a combination of beef and chicken stock, a variant originating in Québec. The gravy should be substantial, but still thin enough to easily filter down into the mass of fries and cheese curds. These sauces typically also contain vinegar or a sour flavouring to balance the richness of the cheese and fries. Traditional poutine sauces (mélange à sauce poutine) are sold in Québec, Ontario, and Maritime grocery stores in jars or cans and in powdered mix packets; some grocery chains like Sobeys even offer their own house brand versions. Many places also offer vegetarian gravy as an option to cater to vegetarians.
Heavy beef- or pork-based brown gravies are rarely used. To maintain the texture of the fries, the cheese curd and gravy are added immediately prior to serving the dish. The hot gravy is usually poured over the room-temperature cheese curds, so that the cheese is warmed without completely melting. It is important to control the temperature, timing and the order in which the ingredients are added, so as to obtain the right food textures which is an essential part of the experience of eating poutine.
There are many variations of poutine. Some restaurants offer poutine with such toppings as sausage, chicken, bacon, or Montreal-style smoked meat. Some poutineries even boast dozens of variations of poutine. More upscale poutine with three-pepper sauce, merguez sausage, foie gras or even caviar and truffle can be found, a pre-Millennium trend that is credited to David MacMillan of 'Joe Beef' and 'Globe' restaurants fame. Some variations eliminate the cheese, but most Québécois would call such a dish a frite sauce ("french fries with sauce") rather than poutine. Shawinigan and some other regions have patate-sauce-choux where shredded raw cabbage replaces cheese. Fast food combination meals in Canada often have the option of getting french fries "poutinized" by adding cheese curds (or shredded cheese in the Prairies and Western Canada) and gravy.
Sweet potato has been used to be a healthy alternative to french fries. The idea of adding dietary fiber and vitamins to this classic dish is widely endorsed by the public. Crinkle-cut fries may be used as well.
Outside Canada, poutine is found in northern border regions of the United States such as New England, the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Midwest. These regions offer further variations of the basic dish. Cheeses other than fresh curds are commonly used (most commonly mozzarella cheese), along with beef, brown or turkey gravy. In the country culture especially, a mixed fry can also come with cooked ground beef on top and is referred to as a hamburger mix, though this is less popular than a regular mix.
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|Italian poutine||Bolognese sauce||Sometimes with Italian sausage slices.|
|Poutine Chinoise (Chinese)||Brown Gravy and Bolognese sauce|
|Poutine Dulton||Ground beef and onions|
|Doner or gyro poutine||Doner or gyro meat|
|Poutine persillade||Persillade potatoes|
|Poutine Galvaude||Shredded turkey or chicken and green peas|
|Poutine à l'étranger||Sometimes with Grated cheese||Thick gravy||Found in most locations outside Québec and Canada|
|Disco Fries||Mozzarella, Provolone, or American cheese||Brown, or Turkey gravy||Mostly found in North Jersey diners. After the disco closed, it was a popular item.|
|Omaha-style Poutine||Sour cream and diced chives. Sometimes Andouille sausage.||Restaurants in the Central U.S.|
|Sugar Shack Poutine||bacon, sausage and maple syrup||Ottawa, ON (Canada's national capital)|
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In Newfoundland and Labrador, most non-national chain restaurants serve a traditional dish called chips, dressing and gravy. "Dressing" is a mixture of mainly white bread crumbs and savoury and is often referred to as "stuffing" outside of Atlantic Canada. Chips, dressing and gravy is served much like poutine, except for the dressing substituting for the cheese. While loved by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the dish is not very widely known of outside the Canadian province, and within pockets of NL exiles.
In Prince Edward Island, a common dish is "Fries with the Works" which is fries with ground beef and onions, topped with thick beef gravy and fresh green peas.
Disco Fries, also known as "Elvis Fries", served in New Jersey and some New York City diners, are made with brown gravy, mozzarella, and heavier steak fries. In Westchester County, diners serve disco fries as waffle fries with gravy under melted processed mozzarella or cheddar cheese. Elsewhere in the greater New York City area and Long Island, diners serve "cheese fries", using either American (processed) cheese or mozzarella. Diners in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut serve "gravy-cheese-fries" or even "french fries with cheese and gravy"; these are most commonly steak fries, brown gravy, and either shredded American cheese, or an American cheese sauce or spread, such as Cheez Whiz or Velveeta.
"Chili Cheese Fries" are served in Coney Island restaurants around Detroit, Michigan. Shoestring French Fries are covered with the hot dog sauce ("chili" sauce) unique to the Detroit area, then covered with shredded cheddar cheese.
In Southern California, the fast food chain Tommy's has a thick, brown-gravy-based meat chili, and the ingredients of their chili cheese fries are comparable to those of poutine. The chili is thicker, however, and the cheese is American cheese.
Cheese fries are also served in many diners in the American Southwest; in Texas, for example, they usually include at least one variety of grated Cheddar cheese, and are commonly served with ranch dressing and, sometimes, bacon, jalapeños and chives, whereas in New Mexico, the fries are typically served with green chile and cheese, creating a dish that combines two Southwest favorites, french fries and chile con queso. The secret menu at In-N-Out Burger includes "animal style fries", a dish consisting of cheese, grilled onions, and the chain's "secret sauce" over fries. Around Chicago in Northern Illinois, up though Wisconsin and into Minnesota, cheese fries are often made using a natural cheddar spread such as Merkt's brand, which has an intense flavor and distinctive texture. Chili cheese fries are a common variation.
Boo fries (cheese, french fries and gravy) are found in New Orleans. Also known as Debris fries by some in New Orleans (fries, roast beef debris "gravy" and cheese).
Carne asada fries have become popular in Southern California, consisting of a combination of fries, carne asada (grilled, marinated steak-strips), beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and cheese.
Chips, cheese and gravy
In the United Kingdom and Isle of Man (particularly the north of England and Scotland), a notably similar dish is called chips, cheese and gravy. That dish is common in chip shops, and other small, local fast food stores, and consists of thick-cut chips and shredded cheddar cheese (and sometimes a 50/50 mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese), topped with thick gravy. A variant is sometimes made with curry sauce instead of gravy. This dish has been available in the UK since 1901.
A cultural marker, poutine has long been Québec's adored junk food contribution to Canadian cuisine. Poutine served as a comfort food for the local community after the Lac-Megantic derailment. Three varieties are offered at the Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot Center's Canada pavilion.
In May 2014, the word "poutine" was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary of the English language.
In 2007, the CBC declared the outcome of an online survey on the greatest Canadian inventions of all time. Poutine arrived at No. 10, beating, among other items, the electron microscope, the BlackBerry, and the paint roller.
Poutine has been a highlight of the London, UK, "Canada Day" celebrations in Trafalgar Square for several years.
However, poutine has since made inroads into proper culinary circles, challenging its junk food status. Thus in 2011, well-known chef Chuck Hughes won on Iron Chef America (episode 2 of season 9) by beating out his heavyweight competitor Bobby Flay with a plate of lobster poutine.
In 2014, bacon-poutine was one of four flavours selected as a finalist in the Lay's Canada 'Do Us A Flavour' potato chip contest, although it did not win that competition However, Lay's has since added a bacon-poutine variety in its 'Canada' entry for the 'World Flavourites', and Loblaws' President's Choice and Ruffles brands offer poutine-flavored potato chips in Canada
Montreal hosts a competitive "La Poutine Week" every year in February. Members of the public can download an app in order to rate the poutines they have tried. Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, Calgary, Québec City, Sherbrooke and others similarly hold their own weeks. Some United States cities such as Chicago, IL, and Knoxville, TN, have festivals also.
In a Talking to Americans segment on the Canadian mock television news show This Hour Has 22 Minutes during the 2000 American election, comedian Rick Mercer posed as a reporter and asked several people (including then-Texas governor George W. Bush) what they thought of "Prime Minister Jean Poutine" and his endorsement of Bush for president. (The Prime Minister of Canada at the time was Jean Chrétien.) None of the interviewees noticed the insertion of "Poutine". A few years later when Bush made his first official visit to Canada as President, he joked during a speech, "I told [Prime Minister] Paul [Martin] that I really have only one regret about this visit to Canada. There's a prominent citizen who endorsed me in the 2000 election, and I wanted a chance to finally thank him for that endorsement. I was hoping to meet Jean Poutine." The remark was met with laughter and applause.
During the 2011 Canadian federal election voter suppression scandal, misleading phone calls registered to a "Pierre Poutine" of "Separatist Street" in Joliette, Québec, were made in at least 14 ridings, including Guelph, Ontario. The fraudulent calls directed voters to the wrong polling stations. Through court orders of document releases from Rogers Communications the source of the calls was eventually traced and appeared to correspond to the campaign office of Conservative Party of Canada candidate Marty Burke.
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Although the earliest evidence of the word "poutine" in an English publication is from 1982, historical accounts of the dish itself date to several decades earlier ... Some assert that "poutine" is related to the English word "pudding," but a more popular etymology is that it's from a Québecois slang word meaning "mess."
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...; Galvaude (turkey, green peas);...
- "THERE'S NO DRUNK FOOD LIKE DISCO FRIES Fried potato + melted cheese + gravy is good everywhere, but this drunk food is a Garden State exclusive".
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- Le Cellier Steakhouse menus
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Granted, poutine came in only at No. 10. But it beat, among other things, the electron microscope, the BlackBerry, the paint roller and the caulking gun, lacrosse, plexiglass, radio voice transmission and basketball.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Poutine.|
- Poutine on The News (1991), CBC News Report on Poutine
- Poutine no longer just a cheesy junk food treat from CTV News
- A podcast of CBC Radio "Q"; Jian Ghomeshi interviews Marion Kane on the origins of Poutine from CBC Radio