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Wang Dang Sweet Poutine

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Dec 15, 2009 5:00PM

With a name like "poutine" it's easy to assume that the diner staple of French fries, cheese curds and gravy is French in origin. You'd only be off by about 3,390 miles. The origins of poutine (pronounced "POO-teen") began, as most great creations, as a happy accident. The most often cited story: a Quebecois named Fernand LaChance was asked to pair the three ingredients together at the behest of a customer. LaChance replied, "├ža va faire une maudite poutine" ("it will make a damn mess"). The fries tend to be medium cut so that they're soft inside while crisp outside. gravy is typically chicken, turkey or veal with a solid pepper note to it. We prefer our poutine with a sharp cheese curd, like cheddar.

As poutine gained in popularity and spread to other places, the dish incorporated elements of different cuisines for variety. Italian poutine, for example, used rich hearty pasta sauces instead of gravy. Chili cheese fries are another form of poutine. It could be argued that Taylor Street fries, served with the jus from Italian beef, sweet peppers and giardinera, is a form of cheeseless poutine. The Taylor Street fries at Edzo's Burger Shop (1571 Sherman, Evanston) are home cut, with a good helping of gravy, sweet and hot.

Poutines are also popular at some of our better restaurants. For mado's beef dinner a couple weeks back, Rob Levitt made a poutine with cheddar cheese curds and rich beef gravy that he positioned as an intermission course for an already decadent and heavy dinner. It almost did some of the diners in. Nightwood's take on poutine includes duck confit and is topped with a duck egg. it comes on a plate that can easily serve four. Probably our favorite take on poutine around comes from the Gage. Dirk Flanigan's interpretation of the dish includes thick cut steak fries smothered in melted cheese curds and an elk ragout that will help lower your center of gravity should you go ice skating at Millennium Park or Navy Pier.