Amy Keyishian

Homemade Poutine: One Woman’s Obsessive Culinary Quest

homemade poutine


So this video went viral recently. All it shows is a closed bathroom door. Inside the bathroom is a kid about 3 years old, who is essentially narrating the process he’s in and mourning the amount of food he ate that brought him to this place. The list is long. As it goes on, the camera starts to shake, and you can hear the muffled, commiserating laughter of the kid’s mom.


If you’re a mom, pee before you watch this, if only from the fact that he still says “toy-yet.” If you’re not, well — trust me, you’d find this funny if you were.



“Apple. Poutine. Cheesestring. Pickle chips. Peanut butter and raisins. Ugh! Everything! Chocolate things. Chocolate thingies. More chocolate thingies. Gummies. Ugh!”


Within the space of maybe 3 days, this video showed up in my Facebook feed approximately nine billion times, and each time, the accompanying update asked “What the heck is poutine?”


Rumors swirled that it was something involving French fries, gravy and cheese, and that it was a favorite staple of late-night Quebecois cuisine. I don’t know why, but I became absolutely obsessed with discovering the wonders of poutine. As it happens, I had just made a new neighborhood friend named Sophie, and I knew, from the fact that she referred to her mom as “mum,” that she was Canadian. When I asked her about poutine, she said, “Oh, we love poutine!” and the way she pronounced it — poo-TIN-nuh — was so adorable, I knew I had to unlock its secrets and add this dish to my ate-that list.


The first thing to do was find cheese curds. Yes, cheese curds. These are not the same as cottage cheese; they are the secret link between milk and the aged cheese, most typically cheddar, that you get at the store. They are common in Quebec and the American Midwest — and, apparently, extremely uncommon everywhere else. I looked into making them, but you need rennet, which proved just as difficult to find. I had just about decided to order a curd-making kit online (I told you, obsessed) when one of my online invisible pals said that he had spotted them, supplied by a local farmer, at my neighborhood Costco.


Kismet, right?


I pored over various online recipes, but this seemed to be one of those dishes, like mac and cheese with ground beef and ketchup, or cottage cheese mixed with applesauce and doused with cinnamon, that are so far from gourmet that you just have to talk to a native to get it right. So Sophie came over and our kids ate French fries as she directed me.


1. Fries. Remember that trend from the 1990s where restaurants created gourmet versions of junk food, like Twinkies and Ho-Hos and toast-them-at-the-table s’mores? So there are upscale versions of poutine, in which you make your own fries out of sliced new potatoes. Sophie forbade this. “You have to just go with it,” she said. “Respect the purity of the poutine.” So I got frozen fries, and I warmed them in the oven as directed.


2. Gravy. It’s easy to make, but even easier to buy. Much as you must choose Foster’s U-Bet chocolate syrup over Ghirardelli if you want a truly authentic egg cream, you need industrial gravy to make your poutine sing. I chose Heinz and heated it on the stovetop while the fries were baking.


3. Cheese curds. Ideally, you don’t want yours from Costco — they are supposed to be fresh enough to squeak when you eat them. (“It’s so weird,” says Sophie. “But it’s so good.”) If you’re going to substitute something easier to obtain, go with shredded cheddar or even Velveeta — something with a good melt.


4. Layers. Take a good-sized oven-proof bowl — soup-bowl-sized, not cereal bowl. First a pile of fries, then some gravy, then some curds, then more gravy. You want the gravy to permeate both the curds and the cheese — it’s like how lasagna has sauce on every layer. Poutine is like French fry lasagna. You want that gravy everywhere.


homemade poutine



homemade poutine


5. Heat. Put the bowls under the broiler for 3 minutes. That’s all. You’re just making sure everything melts together and gets a little mushy.


homemade poutine


Eat with a fork. Watch your Canadian friend melt into a puddle of joy before your very eyes. Feel yourself warmed from your very core with a taste sensation that I would have to call the ultimate comfort food, perfect for a chilly day (or late night).


And for God’s sake, skip the third helping of chocolate thingies … or at least make sure nobody’s outside your bathroom door.



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10 Responses to “Homemade Poutine: One Woman’s Obsessive Culinary Quest”

  • Eloy says:

    David, you do not receive copies of the previous letters. As the letters go forward that variety could be in the hundreds. But if there’s a particular letter send us an email and maybe we can figure something out.

  • Rodger says:

    Just wondering, before I consider subscribing… is this an actual, individually composed letter to each and every subscriber, or does each individual writer compose a single letter each individual week and send the same composition to all with the subscribers they’re assigned to write to?

  • Lauren says:

    I am not sure if my subscription info came through to you nor am I clear how to pay the $5.00.Thanks this is really a fantastic idea if I’m able to connect! Judy

  • Sophie says:

    New poutine alert from the true north: Butter Chicken Poutine (an arranged marriage between Indian and Quebecois), Poutine home delivery (when it’s -35 F), McDonalds now serves the dish of all dishes. Only in Canada.

  • Sandy says:


  • Rose says:

    Does the cheese get stringy?
    What does the gravy and cheese do, does it turn creamy or does the cheese start to get stringy, as it cools?

    • Christine says:

      Yes the cheese gets stringy and gooey. Combined with the hot gravy and fries, this makes you a comfort dish you won’t soon forget!

  • Val from PA says:

    Funny story! I, too, was intrigued when I kept hearing about Poutine on Food Network… One day, when I came across a variety of cheese curds at my local farmer’s market (they even have cheddar garlic cheese curds which I just like to snack on!), I knew it was time to try it… I used the frozen crinkle cut fries as well, which I baked in the oven, and Heinz beef gravy. I sprinkled the curds on the fries fresh out of the oven and then poured the gravy right on top (right on the baking sheet). It was delicious! From what I’ve read though, I think you’re supposed to use chicken gravy, but personally I think it would be great with either!

  • Ken says:

    Hi there, I am happy to say that I have had the real stuff. I live right over the border from Cornwell, Canada and have had the pleasure of sampling Poutin from our friends to the north.

    First, a true FRESH cheddar cheese curd will “squeak” on your teeth as you eat it. If you don’t believe me, try it.

    The recipe that is used in this area is just fries right out of the frier, covered in the fresh Cheddar cheese curds, then drowned in a beef based gravy. I have never seen the layering or the heating under the broiler, but it won’t affect the taste any.

    There are dozens of variations of the gravy recipe, but the beef based basic gravy seems to be the “classic”.

    By the way, one of the claimants to the invention of Poutin, Mr Jean-Paul Roy died from a heart attack a few years ago.

    “it doesn’t matter how you make it as long as they leave their plates clean.”

    • christine says:

      We usually use the white cheddar cheese curds, brown gravy and regular frozen french fries. If you prefer not to deep fry, then use the frozen fries meant for oven baking. Just make sure they don’t dry out!

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