Vegetarian Poutine With Homemade Cheese Curds!

I know I’ve written extensively about my love affair with gravy. One of my favorite vehicles for indulging that passion is with poutine, which for those of you who have never heard of, is a Canadian specialty that’s pretty much just heaven on a plate.

Fries + Cheddar Cheese Curds + Gravy = *Choir of Angels*

My cooking buddy (and fellow poutine worshipper) and I have been on a search for the best poutine in Boston, and sadly we’ve found that only ONE restaurant in the entire city makes their “poutine” with real cheese curds (it’s Saus for all you lil’ Bostonian poutine connoisseurs out there). All the other imposters have frankly been an abomination to the institution that is truly authentic Canadian poutine.

In the many months we’ve been parading around as Boston’s premiere poutine critics, we’ve pretty much seen everything… ricotta masquerading as cheese curds, provolone hiding in the murky depths of lukewarm canned gravy, a complete horror show of cheese melted on kettle chips that laughed in the face of everything poutine stands for.

The horror show, a complete mockery of poutine, courtesy of Jaime K. on Yelp.

Yep, we’ve seen everything… except actual poutine.

Quite honestly the search has left us a little disgruntled and pretty darn disappointed, so at some point we decided we’d track down some cheese curds and just make our own. But after months of extensive internet searches, puzzled looks from shop owners, and countless false leads, we came to the conclusion that all of metro Boston just hates cheese curds. They were nowhere to be found.

I mean really, we’re 6 friggin’ hours from Montreal, where finding poutine is as common as finding a McDonald’s in any city in America. So freakin’ common, in fact, that they actually sell poutine at McDonald’s in Montreal. Come on people, even Ronald McDonald is on board! Somehow the Northeast just still hasn’t gotten the message that cheese curds are freakin’ delicious when slathered gravy and served on top of french fries.

It should be a testament to how deeply I love poutine that in a bought of frustration I ended up making my own cheese curds. At home. By myself. Yep, I ordered cheese making supplies and spent the better part of 12 hours hovering over a vat of milk with a thermometer for the sole goal of eventually making poutine. This recipe has truly been a labor of love months in the making.

There’s no way I can not blog about the process of making my own cheese. It has to be done. At some point. But I’m just too freakin’ excited that my poutine actually happened to do it now. In the meantime, you can follow these directions, like I did. It’s actually very simple to do, albeit a little time consuming.

Proof that I actually did it.

Instead, lets focus on these freakin’ delicious looking photos and the awesome oven fries recipe I found to form the base of such an awesome dish.

Aforementioned cooking buddy is a big, bigggg fan of Cooks Illustrated and has gotten me really into it too. Either of us has yet to find a recipe on Cook’s that has truly failed us, so with a million+ recipes out there for french fries, I figured why not stick to the big guns and consult my new favorite trusty resource.

Crispiness isn’t really an issue to consider when making fries for poutine since the gravy gets the fries nice and wet anyway, eliminating any possible crunch. Oven fries are usually a lot softer and “wetter” than deep fried fries, but they’re a lot less work and a lot bettah fo’ you (if you’re into that sort of thing). Cooks method for oven fries was extremely simple, but pretty darn genius… by soaking the potatoes and not coating the fries directly with oil, my final product was actually pretty comparable to the fried stuff… crispy and and everything! I would absolutely make these fries again, even just with a veggie burger on a regular ol’ weeknight.

I was so very happy with how this poutine turned out… it was better than any poutine I’ve had at a restaurant in the last couple of years AND it was entirely vegetarian. Even though I normally make exceptions for meaty gravy deliciousness, throwing on the veggie gravy really made it feel like mine, which is what cookin’ is all about, right? Hope you enjoy!

Vegetarian Poutine

  • 1 to 2 big handfuls of homemade cheese curds (or if you’re lucky enough to have found them, store-bought ones)
  • 3 medium-sized russet or yukon gold potatoes
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Any other spices you’d like to add to your fries (I used oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic, cumin, paprika, and chile powder)
  • Ingredients for lentil gravy
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/2 onion chopped
    • 3/4 cup lentils
    • 3 cups vegetable broth
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 3 scallions, chopped fine, whites and green parts
  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475 degrees. Chop the potatos into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch matchsticks. Place potatoes in large bowl and cover with hot tap water; soak 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coat 18 by 12-inch heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tablespoons oil and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.
  2. Drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels. Rinse and wipe out now-empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and any spices you desire. Arrange potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet; cover tightly with foil and bake 5 minutes.
  3. Once you put the fries in the oven, start the gravy. In a large skillet, melt the butter and add onion and lentils. Sautee for just a minute or two over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat. Add poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste, stirring consistently. Allow to simmer while you bake the fries (lentils will take about 20 minutes to be cooked throughly).
  4. Once the fries have baked five minutes with the foil on, remove foil and continue to bake until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using metal spatula and tongs, scrape to loosen potatoes from pan, then flip each fry, keeping potatoes in single layer. Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 5 to 15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly.
  5. Transfer fries to second baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with cheese curds, then a few ladle-fulls of gravy, followed by a light sprinkling of chopped scallions. Enjoy!