keen on poutine
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Keen on Poutine
November, 2010, Page 146
Photos by Nathan Noyes
Caffe Boa Bistro
Express from Canada to Phoenix, the gooey, fatty combo of French fries, cheese curds and gravy known as poutine is gaining popularity.
Caffe Boa Bistro
2837 N. Power Road, Mesa
Caffe Boa owner Christine Wisniewski couldn’t understand why poutine hadn’t made it across the border into Arizona from her native Canada. Sure, it’s diner food, but what’s not to love about French fries topped with fresh cheese curd and swimming in brown gravy? So she and her husband/Caffe Boa co-owner, Jay, recently added it to their bar menu. And since their chef is the wildly creative Payton Curry, this isn’t just any greasy poutine. As the chef himself says, “It’s a rich and savory version, classed up with premium ingredients.”
Curry makes his own French fries from triple-blanched russets. The gravy comes from velvety veal stock, studded with roasted mushrooms. Instead of curds, he layers on burrata cheese and adds a finishing kiss of oregano. The flavors come together in layers, making a sloppy but oh-so-savory mound that’s big enough for two hungry diners.
Not surprisingly, poutine is a calorie bomb (most fast-food versions clock in at around 750 calories). But because of the top-notch goods that Curry uses, his dish actually isn’t that bad. Even with a half pound of potatoes, the chef estimates his recipe rings in at 535 calories.
Mad Chef Gastropub
Mad Chef Gastropub
3941 E. Chandler Blvd., Phoenix
Mad Chef owners Mario and Vincent Rana have been experimenting with their poutine recipe since they opened their casual pub this spring. They were inspired by their parents’ love of French fries dunked in brown gravy and came up with a delicious rendition of the sauce, made with a stock base of veal bones, celery, onion, carrots, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, wine, tomato paste and butter, all slow-cooked for three days.
Worried that the dish was too “homey” for their Ahwatukee enterprise, they tested cheddar curd but compromised with melted aged cheddar and gravy ladled over steamy, hot steak fries, and now the snack is, according to Mario, highly popular.
Traditionalists can still get curds by request or as a frequent special during the tourism season. “When the Canadians are back, we keep it, since they are the customers that really enjoy the curds,” Mario says.
However you eat it, this is a dish built for sharing – the gooey, savory mess is addictive, and big plates disappear before you know it.
As for calories, Mario notes, “It’s best not to ask.”
9375 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale
Chef Aaron May dabbles in fine dining at some of his restaurants, but his heart seems more firmly set on bar food and greasy spoon fare.
If it looks deadly but tastes delicious, then extra bonus points. So it’s little surprise that May recently added poutine to his eatery within the Coyotes Ice Den skating rink. It’s hardly a shock, either, that he does a darn good job with it; the man knows his way around heart-clogging combinations.
His version is authentic: French fries smothered in the crispy nuggets of goo that are curds, and drenched in brown gravy.
It’s not fancy – the gravy is based simply on chicken stock while the curds are your basic mozzarella models.
It ain’t pretty in the least – the fat, steak-cut fries sog under a grayish ocean, bobbing with chewy white buoys of cheese – but it sure goes down easy.
Before you know it, the platter is licked clean, you’ve gone through a stack of napkins, and you’re calling your tailor to let out your pants.
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