All posts by Kate Cone

Praying for Poutine: the bucket-list dish that begs for beer

Praying for Poutine: the bucket-list dish that begs for beer
by Kate Cone
Poutine and beer at Foulmouthed Brewing Company, South Portland, Maine
If you haven’t made the acquaintance with this Quebecois dish yet, wait no longer. Several entities claim the invention of it, so take your pick. According to Sean Hutchinson of Mental Floss, it is sometimes attributed to a Canadian restaurant patron in 1957 who asked for cheese curds on his to-go french fries because he was in a hurry. The owner, Fernand Lachance, looked in the bag and pronounced it a poutine, “a mess.” Thank you, Mr. Lachance, or “merci,” to be correct. The gravy was added later by restaurant owner Jean Paul Roy, who noticed customers were ordering gravy to go atop their fries and curds. That was 1964, and a star was born.
You might think poutine is a dish for cold weather, and you’d be right some of the time. But I had my first taste of poutine on July 8, 2016, a warm summer day. Why do I recall the exact date? Blame my steel-trap memory (my husband hates it), or the fact that I had poutine on a beer bus tour lunch stop, at a jazzy new brewpub that is celebrating its first anniversary this summer. Beer, great food and the camaraderie of fellow beer lovers is hard to forget.
Foulmouthed Brewing Company is located just over the million dollar bridge in South Portland, or SoPo as my friends called it way back in the 1970’s, in a building that once housed a gas station. Craig and Julia Dilger are the owners and Dan Lindberg is the chef. With cooking “chops” as impressive as a stint at Portland’s high-end Hugo’s, Dan took a leap of faith when his friends proposed his running the kitchen in their brewpub-in-planning. “Leap and the net will appear,” is my favorite Zen saying, and that jump has paid off for patrons in a fabulous, modern-yet-cozy space where you can pair beer made right there with Dan’s kitchen creations.
Dan told me that he loved cooking when he was a kid, and helped his grandmother, who did a lot of the cooking for his family. She once started preparing a dish Dan didn’t particularly like, so while she wasn’t looking, he added a bit of dish soap. When it was discovered, the family sent out for pizza that night, but he got into a wee bit of trouble for ruining dinner. Crafty kid. I’m sure they all laugh about it now.
Here’s the thing about making poutine at home: you could spend three days doing all the prepping, including simmering pork bones for the stock, which will be made into the gravy, peeling and frying the potatoes for the fries and making your own cheese curds (if you use them). Most of us just don’t have the time or inclination for the labor involved.
Here’s my recommendation. I’ve tried this several times, resulting in a  poutine that is savory, melty and delicious. Doctor the very best jarred or canned gravy (I use Campbell’s Pork Gravy) by adding a squirt of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar, says Dan. Use the best supermarket frozen french fries, like Alexia organic, and buy cheese curds. We even have curds made locally.
My suggestion? Try making it at home, then head over to Foulmouthed to try Dan’s. Oh, and don’t forget to order a flight of their house-brewed beers to wash it all down with. Gym? Oh, seriously. Wait til Monday. Cheers!
Kate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England: a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs (Down East Books, 2016)
What’s Brewing in New England: a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs (Down East Books, 2016)

Federal Jack’s Chowder

Chris Charland’s Chowder:

chris-charland-of-federal-jacksFederal Jack’s chef shares his recipe for a sure respite from the winter weather
A couple of years ago, in my infinite wisdom, I asked Kennebunkport Brewing Company if I could brew with them for a day in February. I had done this back in the 1990’s for an article I wrote about the experience. This time it was February, oh, did I mention that? And even lovely Kennebunkport in southern Maine was a frigid eight degrees. “Dress in layers” was head brewer Mike Haley’s email instruction to me. Well, my layers were feeble and I froze to death until the mashing-in got into full swing, the steam eventually warming the brewery a tad. I should have dressed in seven layers of thick down ski clothes, but I didn’t. Instead, I clutched my cup of coffee and hoped the steaming liquid would warm me. It didn’t. All I could think about while I loaded the grain into the auger, weighed out hops and watched Mike Haley clean out the mash tun (hey, my hands were frozen) was lunch, when I could repair upstairs to Federal Jack’s Brewpub and have a bowl of hot-as-Hades chowder.

We all have that in common in our cold Maine winters. And the one dish we can make and enjoy all winter long, for both body and soul, is a hot, buttery, creamy chowder, thought to come from the French word for cauldron, chaudiere. It’s quick to put together, and gets better if you let it “age” for a few hours or even up to a few days. But if you think you’re going to keel over dead if you endure one more snowstorm, or bombogenesis, as that horrific storm in 2015 was labeled, you are welcome to eat it as soon as you make it. You have my permission.

When the leaves came down this autumn, and the balmy days turned cold, I thought about Fed Jack’s chowder once more. I asked chef Chris Charland if he would share his recipe and he did. No precious Top Chef or Chopped secret-keeping here. Just a simple and easy-but-foolproof recipe from Federal Jack’s chef of over eighteen years, who began as a prep cook and worked his way through the ranks to become head chef.

I asked Chris to tell me something about himself and was delighted to hear that he grew up and still lives in his home town of Biddeford. His cooking background? He attended Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and was mentored by chef Christian Gordon. But even earlier, as a boy, Chris credits his grandmother with teaching him how to make his way around the kitchen.

“My grandparents had a garden so they did a lot of pickling. My grandmother also taught me how to make a great Thanksgiving dinner, blueberry pies, her delicious southern no-bake cookies (my favorite recipe from her) and what I call “Memere soup,” which is her tomato soup with noodles.”

Of his favorite dishes to make at Federal Jack’s, Chris says, “I enjoy working with local farmers and purveyors. Our weekly special menu is dedicated to doing just that. I take their products and give them my twist by incorporating our beers (made right below the restaurant and the freshest beer possible) into them. I sometimes use the beer itself in a braising liquid, the malts used in beer- making to make crusts for fish and meat and hops to make sauces.”

What do you bring to holiday dinners? “I usually make most of the meal such as turkey or prime rib, ham and some sides like fresh herb and olive oil smashed potatoes, maple roasted butternut squash with sage, or desserts.”
When he has a day off, Chris loves spending time with his two boys, Caiden, age 6 and Carson, 2. “We play sports or build ninja warrior courses for Caiden and go for adventure walks with my youngest.”

This is a recipe that doesn’t impose amounts for the ingredients. If you have never made chowder before, you can consult another recipe that does give them. I suggest you look at the list and decide what you like and just throw it in there. I prefer chunky chowders and add lots of rough chopped onions and potatoes. For clams, canned are fine. You might luck out if you live near a fish store, like Harbor Fish in Portland, that sells them by the quart. But the supermarket clams from Maine make a delicious “chaudiere.”

Here is our ingredient list
Whole unsalted butter
Small diced white onions
Small diced celery
Medium diced white Maine potatoes
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Fresh thyme [Kate’s note: I use a few pinches of dried when I don’t have fresh]
Chopped clams and juice
Clam stock [Kate’s note: Julia Child used bottled clam juice!]
Heavy cream

Melt butter in a heavy pot or pan.
Add onions and celery and seasonings and cook until onions are translucent.
Add clam stock and bring to boil.
Add potatoes and cream. [Kate’s note: I leave the milk/cream out until everything else is done, just to avoid separating.]
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
Cook until potatoes are fork tender.
Add chopped clams and simmer until clams are cooked.
In a separate mixing bowl, mix water and cornstarch to make a slurry.
Bring chowder to boil and slowly whisk in slurry.
Bring to boil until desired thickness.
Serve with oyster cracker and a pint of Export Ale.

kate-coneKate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England, a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs. (Down East Books, 2016 and 1997). She loves to cook just about anything and chowder saves her life every winter. She lives in Waterville, Maine with her husband, Patrick Brancaccio.