The Rumbly Tummy: Poutine (sorta)
Now, we had heard of poutine before going to Canada. We’d even eaten poutine before going to Canada. We lived with our favorite, angry Irishman bass player, Mike Shannon, for a couple years, and every time Canada was mentioned in that house, his eyes lit up like Christmas morning and he told us about this magical dish: poutine! French fries covered in cheese curds, covered in gravy. To hear Mike speak of it, you’d almost think it was proof that the universe wasn’t just a randomly occurring parade of pain and agony (like he truly believes). So, one night, before camper and second dog, we returned home late from tour in our tiny car to find Mike already tucked into bed (we knew this because we watched him sleep. For hours.). So, we delicately laid our tour prize in the refrigerator with a note on the kitchen table that read:
"Dear Mike-- we have brought you cheese curds from Wisconsin. It's your turn to make dinner this week. We request poutine. Love, Mallory and Not Love, Scott and I Am Coming to Sleep in Your Bed After My Mom Goes to Work, Butter."
It was a tumultuous household.
And so, on a regular Thursday night in our East Nashville house, Mike made good and instructed us, his sous-chefs, on the ins and outs of poutine. We ate this glorious gravy-covered-nothing-in-it-is-good-for-you dish while binge watching Bob's Burgers and using our best impression of Canadians (which was just, for once, being extra polite).
Which brings you up to date on our poutine experience.
As you can see, with such a glorious first run, a trip to Canada as new-ish vegans was a bit of a let down for our Canadian cuisine experience. Until, it wasn't. Unlike in the States, when you search for vegan and gluten free options, Yelp doesn't laugh and say, "You ain't from around here, are you?" Instead, it responds by saying, "Oh! While You're in Toronto, you should most definitely check out this vegan joint that specializes in the specific traditional cuisine you are looking for that will make you feel like you are part of the experience without making fun of you. And, it's also owned by the one friend you have in the country's cousin."
We love Canada.
Before we were even gone we were missing this tasty snack and so we picked up a bag of Lays potato and gravy chips, which surprisingly are vegan and gluten-free. We crossed over the border with a smile on our faces and then two days later, unable to get the memory out of our heads, we made our own, gluten-free, vegan poutine.
We don’t know about you, but we can’t store a deep frier in the camper. So we waited until we were plugged into electricity and then used our trusty toaster oven to bake the fries. Other ways of preparing your potatoes are also acceptable, but here’s how we did it. Also, it's understandable if you didn't get the chance to hop the border and pick up your favorite Canadian gluten free beer to pair with poutine like we did, but anything fizzy will do.
1-2 large baking potatoes, cut thinly, lengthwise
Oil to coat
Salt and Pepper
1 large avocado
head to this link and use this yummy, but more complicated, vegan cheese to cut up under the gravy. This is also the same recipe we used for the Buffalo Tempeh Dip from our March edition of The Rumbly Tummy.
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 nutritional yeast
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 small onion, diced finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, diced finely
1 large or 2 small mushrooms, diced finely
salt and pepper
1 tbs oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
4 cups vegetable broth
1-2 tbs tamari or liquid amino acids
To make your fries, cut potatoes thinly, lengthwise, so as to resemble your favorite french fries. On a baking sheet, place in a single layer and coat well with oil. (If you’re working in a camper with a toaster oven, you might need to do two batches.) Salt and pepper. Place in oven. Bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Flip and bake for another 10 minutes.
While potatoes are baking, heat medium to large saucepan on high. Add chickpea flour and nutritional yeast. Whisk constantly until mixture becomes fragrant and slightly darker. Pour mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
In the same pan as step 2, heat olive oil on high heat. Add onion, garlic. Saute till fragrant. Add carrots and mushrooms. Cook until carrots are slightly tender.
Add oregano, thyme, paprika and cayenne. Stir quickly with whisk.
When spices become fragrant, add chickpea mixture and whisk quickly and constantly. The mixture will become a crumbly, dry glob.
Slowly add vegetable broth, half cup at a time, to the glob, whisking constantly and making sure all broth has been absorbed (till the glob is smoothed) before adding more. Continue until you achieve the consistency and quantity you desire, lowering heat as necessary. (Be patient. Gravy is not a cheater’s game.) *
As a final touch, add salt, pepper, tamari or liquid amino acids to taste (the tamari is what really amps up the savory goodness and you don’t need much to do it.)
When fries are ready, place in a bowl. Distribute chunks of avocado on top of fries and pour gravy in abundance. Eat with a fork and make no plans to be oot and aboot. You’ll be in a vegan-Canadian food coma, eh?**
*However, from one cheater to another, should the gravy become too thin beyond patience and repair, mixing 1/4 cup water with 2 tbsp corn starch and whisking it into the gravy, is an occasional trick of the trade to thicken gravy in a pinch.
**After consulting one, Mike Shannon, and informing him that we will forever put his name to the internet in potentially unflattering ways, he insisted that our facts were straight and to sing the good name of poutine correctly. If you are using chunks or "curds," it is poutine. If you are simply using shredded cheese or slices melted down, this dish is merely called "Disco Fries."