Praying for Poutine: the bucket-list dish that begs for beer
by Kate Cone
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!