So you made it through St. Paddy’s Day in Buffalo. An extended weekend of pints and shots that has you wishing you could rethink some bad decisions as well as that last green beer…You want to nurse yourself back to fighting form. To do so you are going to need some Grade A comfort food. It’s time to head to the Lake Effect Diner and order up the mother-of-all the go-to day after dishes: POUTINE.
Our polite neighbors to the north have given us many things; Tim Hortons, Canadian bacon, Labatt Blue, maple syrup, Nickelback, and a nifty way of pronouncing the letter “o” when we go oot and aboot, but my favorite Canadian export by far has to be poutine. Now for all of you out-of -towners, poutine may sound like a funny, if not, dirty word(get your minds out of the gutter people). Alas, poutine is just Canada’s spin on cheese fries with gravy, or disco fries as some of us from NYC area fondly call them. The Canadian version takes the concept to a whole new level, using cheese curds for the crowning melted glory. Don’t be fooled by the unfortunate name- cheese curds are just cheddar cheese bits in their natural form, before they are shaped into bricks or wheels and aged. They have an elastic texture, mild taste, and a creamy melt.
Legend has it that this dish was born in rural Quebec, Canada. In Quebec, poutine is a slang word that means “mess”. Which is a fitting description of this savory treat ‘cause there is nothing neat about it!
Living so close to the Canadian border, we Buffalonians are lucky enough to have local joints we can go to indulge in this hearty treat. The Lake Effect Diner is one of these places. Here there is nothing basic about the poutine.
First we take some piping hot fresh cut fries and layer them with a sh*t-ton of our simmering scratch gravy The gravy is rich and flavorful, not too thin and not too thick- perfect for filling all the nooks and crannies in between those fries. Next, we top that with a generous helping of locally made cheddar cheese curds, toss it all in the oven to give those curds a nice gooey melt. To finish it , we hit it all with a final bit of gravy.
My advice to you is to get in there! Don’t be shy. You want to use a fork and forage down in there to bring some of those bottom gravy soaked fries to the top to mix in with the blanket of melted cheese. If you are ordering this as a “share” with friends, be utensil ready to fight down to the bottom of the bowl. Me? I am not ashamed to admit, I am not good at sharing, and love to dig into this hot mess as my main meal. Keep your forks where I can see ‘em my friends.
All I can say is Oh Canada! Thank you. We will cherish and celebrate this culinary contribution, but if you have a minute, can we maybe renegotiate on this whole Nickelback thing….