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September 26, 2018

Sandra Scott Travels: Sampling Some Good Food North of the Border


Last week I asked: What is poutine? A unique Canadian food

John and I are always on the lookout for unique recipes especially something that is characteristic of a locality.

On our visit to Ottawa we stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and didn’t think we would find something uniquely Canadian since the culinary cultures of Canada and the United States are so closely linked.

But we did!

Executive Chef Louis Simard

Executive Chef Louis Simard

On the menu at La Terrasse, a patio restaurant at the hotel with a great view of the Parliament buildings, one item caught our attention – Truffled Poutine: Fresh Cut Fries, Truffled Gravy, House Made Curds.

It is a dish that originated in Quebec about 50 years ago.

Legend has it that the name “poutine” comes from Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Quebec.

He had a customer who asked him to add cheese curd to his takeout order of French fries to which Lachance replied, “ça va faire une maudite poutine,” (“it will make a damn mess”).

Today it is a popular comfort food dish especially in ski resorts.

I never associated truffles with French fries and comfort food.

When I asked about the truffle gravy the waitress said she’d get the chef so he could answer all my questions.

Showing off some home-made curd

Showing off some home-made curd

Executive Chef Louis Simard said that poutine was a new addition to the Chateau Laurier menu, “When people travel they often look for comfort food. Once in a while one needs to indulge.  Here at the Chateau Laurier we step up the poutine with the truffle gravy.”

I was surprised to learn that the hotel makes its own cheese curd.

Simard said, “…it took two months to get the process just right.”

When I mentioned using frozen French fries he said, “The French Canadians would never forgive us if we used frozen fries. Poutine will never be a dinner item at the hotel but we will keep it on the La Terrasse menu.”

Simard said poutine is adaptable and that he once set up a poutine station at an event where people could add crab, lobster, foie gras and Montreal smoked brisket.

Simard invited us into the kitchen to see it assembled and shared the truffle gravy recipe.

While Julia who was from South Africa was assembling the poutine she said when she first arrived in Canada she didn’t care for it but now she enjoys it – but not every day.

Julia assembling the poutine

Julia assembling the poutine

I think it makes a good dish to share.

Truffled Poutine Gravy

40 oz chicken stock

5 tsp butter

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

4 tsp flour

Bundle of fresh thyme

Bundle of fresh oregano

2 tsp of cornstarch

1 oz black truffle oil

French fried potatoes

Cheese curd

Reduce chicken stock to ½(one-half) set aside. Lightly sauté garlic in butter, add the flour and cook over low heat until golden brown (4-5 minutes), stirring with a wooden spoon constantly (making a brown roux). Using a whisk, slowly incorporate the reduced chicken stock to the butter-flour mixture. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally.  Add the fresh herbs.  In a small bowl, add enough cold water to the cornstarch to dilute and mix in the boiling sauce. Cook for 2-3 minute at low boil then add the truffle oil. Stir.

To assemble poutine, start with a layer of French fries, sprinkle with cheese curd and a splash of truffle oil. Repeat twice and top with truffle sauce, enough to coat the entire dish. Place under broiler for 1 minute for a crispy top.

Travel Trivia Tease™: What was the busiest airport in 1945?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life —stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!

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