Poutine is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds, covered with brown gravy and sometimes additional ingredients.
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Poutine is a diner staple which originated in Quebec and can now be found across Canada. It is sold by both fast food chains (such as New York Fries, Harvey's, Ed's Subs), in small "greasy spoon" type diners (commonly known as "casse-croûtes" in Quebec) and pubs, as well as by roadside chip wagons. International chains like McDonald's, A&W, KFC and Burger King also sell mass-produced poutine. Popular Quebec restaurants that serve poutine include Chez Ashton (Quebec City), La Banquise (Montreal), Louis (Sherbrooke), Lafleur Restaurants, Franx Supreme, La Belle Province, Le Petit Québec and Dic Ann's Hamburgers. Along with fries and pizza, poutine is a very common dish sold and eaten in high school cafeterias in various parts of Canada.
The dish originated in rural Quebec, Canada, in the late 1950s. Several Québécois communities claim to be the birthplace of poutine, including Drummondville (by Jean-Paul Roy in 1964), Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and Victoriaville. One often-cited tale is that of Fernand Lachance, from Warwick, Quebec, which claims that poutine was invented in 1957, when a customer ordered fries while waiting for his cheese curds from the Kingsey cheese factory in Kingsey Falls (now in Warwick and owned by Saputo Incorporated). Lachance is said to have exclaimed ça va faire une maudite poutine ("it will make a damn mess"), hence the name. The sauce was allegedly added later, to keep the fries warm longer.
The French fries are of medium thickness, and fried so that the insides are still soft, with an outer crust. The gravy is a light chicken, veal or turkey gravy, mildly spiced with a hint of pepper. Heavy beef or pork-based brown gravies are typically not used. Fresh cheese curd (not more than a day old) is used. To prepare, first place the hot fries into a bowl or large plate, then spread the cheese curd on top. The cheese curd should be at room temperature. Then pour piping hot gravy over the cheese curds and fries.
There are many variations of poutine. Italian poutine is a common one which replaces the gravy with spaghetti sauce (a thick tomato and ground beef sauce, roughly analogous to Bolognese sauce), while another variation includes sausage slices. Greek poutine consists of shoestring fries topped with a warm Mediterranean vinaigrette, gravy, and feta cheese. Mexican poutine, also referred to as carne asada fries, consists of fries, carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and pico de gallo. It is best served with hot sauce.
Some restaurants in Montreal offer poutine with such additions as bacon, or Montreal-style smoked meat, although these are not as common. Poutine Dulton, which is offered in a few places, is made with ground beef, onions, and sausages. Some such restaurants even boast a dozen or more variations of poutine. For instance, more upscale poutine with three-pepper sauce, Merguez sausage, foie gras or even caviar and truffle can be found.
Some named variations may not necessarily be prepared with the same ingredients in different establishments. For example, "poutine Galvaude" adds shredded turkey or chicken and green peas, similar to the typical Québécois "hot chicken" sandwich.
Some variations eliminate the cheese, but most francophone Quebecers would call such a dish a "frites sauce" ("french fries with sauce") rather than poutine. Shawinigan and some other regions have Patate-sauce-choux where shredded raw cabbage replaces cheese.
Poutine can also sometimes be combined with pommes persillade (cubed fried potatoes topped with persillade) to produce a hybrid dish called poutine persillade.
Fast food combination meals in Canada often have the option of getting french fries "poutinized" by adding cheese curds (or shredded cheese) and gravy.
In Atlantic Canada, a variation topped with donair meat is offered as "donair poutine".
Outside Canada, poutine is found in northern border regions of the United States such as New England and the Upper Midwest. In Maine and northwestern New Brunswick, poutine may be called "mixed fries", "mix fry", or simply "mix", although the term "poutine" has been gaining in popularity in recent years, especially in Aroostook County. Residents sometimes pronounce the word "poo-tine", but most pronounce it "poot-tsien". The most common pronunciation with anglophones in the Maritime provinces of Canada is usually "poo-tin" or "poo-teen".
These regions offer further variations of the basic dish. Cheeses other than fresh curds are commonly used (most commonly mozzarella cheese), along with beef, brown or turkey gravy. In the county culture especially, a mixed fry can also come with cooked ground beef on top and is referred to as a hamburger mix, though this is less popular than a regular mix.
A variation called "chips, cheese, and gravy" is served as a hang-over food or drunken snack in Australia and the United Kingdom.
In some parts of eastern Canada, the term poutine is not commonly used. In Baie Sainte-Anne, New Brunswick for example the word patachou is used to describe this dish. The term mozza-fries is also used in some parts of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.