April 9, 2012
Most of the time poutine is annoyingly gluten-filled. You wouldn't think so, since it's just fries, gravy and cheese curds. Yet I've been unable to find a restaurant that serves gluten-free poutine. There are usually one or two gluten culprits at play, either the gravy contains wheat flour or the fries are made in fryers that are shared with gluten-containing foods; sometimes it's both. So when I recently got the taste for poutine, I headed into the kitchen instead of into a restaurant.
Two of three poutine elements, french fries and cheese curds, weren't a problem. (To be honest, I like homemade fries better than some of the soggy, greasy poutine fries I've been served in restaurants.) It was the gravy that provided the challenge.
Poutine gravy is a thick brown gravy with black pepper and vinegar notes. For the first batch of gravy, I used all beef broth. The resulting gravy was too beefy, overtaking the dish, like it should be poured over pot roast and not poutine. After a little research, I learned that many poutine recipes use chicken stock, not beef. Batch number two was better but still not right. While the chicken stock didn't overpower the fries and cheese, it lacked the salty-mineraly depth that beef imparts.The next time, I used half chicken stock and half beef broth. Perfection! (For a vegetarian poutine, use vegetable stock. Just be sure it's gluten-free.)
While tinkering with the flavor, I also adjusted the consistency of the gravy. Since many restaurants told me that poutine gravy contained wheat, I assumed the wheat was from a roux. To thicken the gravy, I first doubled the amount of sweet rice flour roux used in traditional gravy. This was a mistake. You could have cut that batch of gravy with a knife. Thinking back to the poutine I'd eaten in the past, I realized they all had the sheen of a cornstarch-thickened sauce. Could using both a roux and cornstarch work? Yes! The roux flavors the gravy nicely while the cornstarch adds additional thickness without making the gravy too pasty or thick.
The finished poutine was indistinguishable from the gluten-filled poutines served at restaurants. The biggest difference? Time. Depending on the method you use to fry your french fries, this recipe takes upward of two hours to complete.
Gluten-free beef broth can be hard to find. I used Kitchen Basics.
To serve your poutine nice and hot, this flow works well:
- Remove cheese curds from refrigerator.
- Prepare gravy. Keep warm over low heat. Be sure to whisk occasionally.
- Fry french fries or, if you want, use frozen french fries. If using frozen, bake as directed.
- Top with prepared gravy and cheese curds.
For the Gravy
8 ounces (1 cup) gluten-free chicken stock, divided, warm
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
8 ounces (1 cup) gluten-free beef broth, warm
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the French Fries
1 recipe homemade French Fries (I really like the one from Brown Eyed Baker!) or 4 servings frozen french fries
8 ounces cheese curds
- Remove cheese curds from refrigerator. Set aside and allow to come to room temperature while you prepare the gravy.
- Prepare gravy. Just before frying french fries, prepare gravy. Reserve one tablespoon chicken stock. Set aside. In medium pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add sweet rice flour and whisk to combine. A thick paste will form. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture turns lightly golden brown, about three minutes. Whisking constantly, add remaining chicken stock and all beef broth in a slow and steady stream. Cook until gravy thickens, about four minutes.
- Combine cornstarch and reserved chicken stock. Whisk with a fork until smooth. Add to gravy. Continue whisking and bring gravy to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Fry french fries as directed in recipe. Whisk gravy occasionally while you prepare the french fries.
- Divide cooked french fries between four bowls. Top with cheese curds and gravy. Serve immediately.