I’m sorry to do this to you guys.
Ya know, with Memorial Day only a couple weeks away. Bathing suit season is looming. And poutine and bathing suits don’t really play well together, do they? But, hey, I’m throwing my better judgement out the window today and sharing this glorious (slightly gluttonous?) dish with you all anyway. You can thank (or hate) me when all is said and done.
Let’s talk poutine. Have you had it? Have you even heard of it? If not, fear not. I’m here to help. Poutine is a magical concoction from Canada that usually involves french fries, fresh cheese curds, a brown gravy, and sometimes other add ins like meat or seafood. If you’re from my area, fries with gravy are known as “disco fries.” Are they a thing in your neck of the woods too? They are pretty much a heart attack on a plate, and every now and then, they’re just what the doctor ordered. Figuratively speaking, of course.
A few years ago, Dan and I went on a long weekend trip with another couple to Toronto. Have you ever been? Oh my gosh, if not, you must go! It is such a FUN city with so much to do, see, and EAT. And for us, it’s relatively easy to get to. This Memorial Day weekend, we’re doing it again. We’re leaving the kids behind with the grandparents (which is so, so, SO bittersweet) and hitting up Toronto in all it’s food and shopping glory one more time. I am so excited.
In the spirit of the upcoming trip, I decided to pay homage to my favorite Canadian city with poutine! It just makes sense. I’ve had poutine on my “must make” list for years now, and for some reason, never attempted it at home. Until now. Oh yes. Now, I am going full throttle and smothering all the fries in the caloric glory that is sweet chunks of lobster, a filthy-rich cheese sauce, and fresh cheese curds. Yup. It’s happening, people. Break out the sweatpants (while we still can!) and join me.
(Oh, and there are some chives thrown in for health reasons. Ya know, to ensure we get our greens in.)
Now, I’m breaking from poutine tradition a bit in a couple ways. The first and most obvious being that I am not using gravy. I’m using cheese instead. My only explanation for this is that cheese sauce on fries is way more appetizing to me than gravy. Sue me. The second being that I’m adding lots of lobster flavor to things and spicing it all up with some Old Bay (which, I’m fairly certain, is NOT Canadian in the least).
There’s actual pieces of lobster, of course, but there’s also some lobster stock in the cheese sauce (which, now that I think about it, is slightly reminiscent of that lobster bisque fondue I shared a few weeks ago). It’s certainly not overpowering, but it adds a nice savory seafood element to things. Makes it feel kind of lighter too…even though it totally isn’t.
The cheese curds are the truly special ingredient here. They’re like fresh little bites of soft cheese that add the best chewy (chewy in a good way!) texture to the dish. They’re almost sweet, like a very mild cheddar or gouda would be. I was able to find them at my local cheese shop, but you can probably buy them online. They’re a new-found treat in our house, for sure.
And now for the reason that poutine truly speaks to me: the fries. Only my favorite guilty pleasure on earth. There is something really magical about anything that involves french fries as the vessel. Am I right? I mean, think about it. You can pretty much put anything on top of french fries and have it taste FANTASTIC. Meat. Seafood. Cheese. Veggies. Or any combo of those things. They’re the perfect culinary blank canvas, if you ask me. The fries in this case are no exception.
Speaking of the fries, here’s a dirty little secret to making poutine at home super easy: use frozen french fries! Yes! I do all the time at home. Deep frying is just not my thing, and while oven fries are great, good ones are almost as labor intensive as making the fried version. So, take some help from the freezer section. There are some fabulous frozen fries out there (even organic ones!). No shame, peeps. No shame. Especially when you’re taking time to do other things like brown butter and prep lobster meat and such.
When you’re smothering things in the ridiculously rich cheese sauce that we’ve got going on here today, it won’t really matter if your fries are homemade or frozen. I promise. There’s BROWN BUTTER, lobster stock, and TWO types of cheeses going on in this sauce. Gah. It’s to die for. I love the flavor of Old Bay spice, and so I used it liberally on both the fries and in the sauce. It’s delicious and I highly recommend you try it if you haven’t before. It gives most seafood a little spicy edge without overpowering it.
A true Canadian may turn his nose up at my version of poutine. But I’m OK with that. Because CHEESE SAUCE.
1 bag of frozen french fries (you can definitely make your own)
1 teaspoon Old Bay spice seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb cooked lobster meat, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
3 tablespoons flour
¾ cup lobster or seafood stock
¾ cup whole milk
4 oz gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz fontina cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Old Bay spice seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh cheese curds
Scallions or chives, for garnish
Spread the frozen fries out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with the Old Bay spice and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat and then bake according to the package directions.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the lobster meat. Toss to coat in the butter and heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes. You’re working with cooked lobster meat at this point, so there is no need to cook it further. Keep warm until you are ready to assemble.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow the butter to turn golden brown and nutty.
Add in the garlic and cook for a few seconds or until fragrant. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for 2 minutes.
Slowly whisk in the stock and the milk. Stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, and cook until thickened, about 3-5 minutes total.
Once it is thickened, whisk in the cheeses and Old Bay. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Keep warm until you are ready to assemble.
Pile the hot fries into a baking dish (or heat-proof serving dish). Top with the lobster meat and cheese curds and then pour the cheese sauce over everything. Garnish with fresh scallions or chives and serve immediately.