Occasionally, a US eating establishment will claim to serve that most elusive and seductive of Canadian dishes: poutine. Ever the optimist, I inevitably order the dish, only to have my skepticism validated by whatever laughable forgery is placed in front of me. For me, poutine is a sacred dish, and must not be desecrated by a chef’s “interpretation”. Because you see, just as there is only one true way to pronounce the dish’s name (hint: it involves Quebec’s singularly unique pronunciation of French syllables), there is only one way to prepare True Poutine: Fries, canned beef gravy, and cheese curds. No, you may not substitute for another “lighter” type of cheese. No, you may not use seasoned fries or “potato wedges”. And god help you if you try to use homemade gravy; it comes in a can for a reason. If you want to add any other ingredients, that’s fine, but don’t call it poutine. This is how my various Quebecois friends’ mothers had prepared the dish throughout the entirety of my childhood and if it was good enough then, it’s good enough now; gooey, health-ravaging decadence and all. The only flexibility in poutine preparation lies buried in the ongoing conflict between the schools of ‘thick-fries-absorb-gravy-better’ and ‘thin-fries-are-crispier’.
I mention all this because I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I would never taste the delicious glory of poutine without traversing the border into French Canada. But against all odds, Saus has thoroughly trounced that expectation and delivered unto the world a damn fine US-located poutine dish. They do opt for the aforementioned thin-fries-are-crispier philosophy, which is a little easier to manage than the more fickle ‘thick fries’ (which become soggy and disappointing if not cooked just right), but what really shines here is, unsurprisingly, their sauce. While they cover the wide range of tastes with their fry dips (see Kathy’s comments on these; I still long for the day when I can purchase bulk quantities of their garlic-and-butter-suffused “Vampire Slayer”), they resist the temptation to force these innovations on their poutine and instead present it as it should be: with traditional, thick, savory brown gravy, just the way Nature always intended. In fact, I’m seriously re-considering the ‘gravy must be canned’ requirement. About the only qualm I have with their poutine is their naming choice, implying that it is a Belgian dish. While I accept that continental cross-pollination occurs with cuisine as a regular course of action, I simply cannot think of poutine as anything other than firmly Canadian. But I won’t quibble over titles, because call it what they may, it looks, tastes, and just plain feels like the classic comfort dish of our northern brothers. And in my book, that’s an unprecedented feat.
Also, The winner of the Saus giveawy for a $15 gift certificate is comment 15! Congrats Kimmy! You should email/text/IM/DM/Tweet/smoke message me when you get a chance 🙂